March 10, 2008

Princeton’s Matchup Zone, Poor Free-Throw Shooting Slow Red, But Team Pulls Away Late

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The Red etched another mark on its historic season with a 71-64 win over Princeton on Saturday night. The win was the Red’s 16th consecutive victory on the season and makes the Red the first Cornell team to go undefeated in league play, going 14-0.
“It means a lot,” said sophomore guard Louis Dale. “We’re the first team, other than Penn or Princeton, to go undefeated. That’s definitely a big accomplishment for our basketball team, for our school, and for the basketball program in general. It lets people know what kind of team we are, and hopefully we can make some more history for Cornell. But it was definitely a huge, huge deal.”
After defeating Penn the previous night and facing one of the Ivy’s lower ranked opponents, the Red were favored to win on Saturday. The score at halftime wouldn’t imply that as the Red entered the locker room down 32-31 after the first stanza.[img_assist|nid=28681|title=Sports Box|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
After taking an eight point lead in the second half, the Tigers marched back to trim the lead to three. The Red would never surrender the lead however, thanks to the play of Dale. Dale found sophomore Alex Tyler for a driving lay-up and then hit two consecutive 3-pointers to push the Red’s lead to nine with seven minutes left.
“Lou had a huge weekend — both games,” Gore said. “Just sometimes you have to get out of his way and just let him do what he does. He’s extremely talented on both ends of the floor, but offensively he’s got all the stops. I mean he really carried us through the end of the second half. I think that we probably wouldn’t have come out on top if it wasn’t for him knocking down the shots towards the end. “
Dale’s run wasn’t the last one the Red would need to pull away in the contest. Thanks to the play of the bench, the Tigers were able to pull within six. The Tigers bench scored 36 points to the Red’s 5.
“The first game against Princeton we knew the people who were playing the most. We knew their type of game,” Dale said. “These bench players come in and they bring in a new aspect to the game, something we weren’t used to and something we hadn’t seen before. And I think that was a reason for that.”
Up six, junior Jeff Foote missed the front end of a one-and-one, senior Jason Hartford grabbed the offensive rebound and scored with a foul. He hit the free throw to push the Red’s lead to nine. Cornell would go on to the win by seven, thanks to its typical second half improvement. The Red shot 53 percent in the second half and only committed one turnover after giving away seven in the first half.
“In that second half, we really came out with a different mentality,” Dale said. “We weren’t giving up all the loose balls, and that really helps because when you get those loose balls, those normally turn into easy buckets and easy layups. I think it helped us kill some of their runs.”
“We came out with a little more focus as far as realizing that we weren’t taking care of the ball really well,” Gore said. “The second half, we made sure that we were taking better care of the ball.”
Uncharacteristically, the Red had a bad performance from the free throw line. Shooting 76.3 percentage as a team for the year, the squad finished 6-for-16 from the line.
“I don’t think it’s anything too serious,” Gore said. “We still do the same amount of free-throw shooting in practice. Maybe just a few guys missed one or two. It’s kind of a mental thing, thinking it about it too much instead of just doing what you normally do. Once the guys start knocking a few more down they’ll get their confidence back.”
To complete his standout weekend, Dale led the Red with 21 points and four assists. In his last regular season game with the Cornell, Hartford scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Ryan Wittman was the other member of the Red to score in double-digits, notching 16 points. Kareem Maddox paced the Tigers with 16.