ANAHEIM, Calif. — While the verdict is still out on which is the better academic institution, Stanford proved to field a better basketball team as it knocked Cornell out of the NCAA tournament this afternoon, 77-53. In its first NCAA tournament appearance in 20 years, the Red fell victim to what many of the Cardinal’s opponents have this year: its defense. The Red, who came into the game as one of the better shooting teams in college basketball, shot 30 percent from the field — including an NCAA tournament low 15 percent in the first half. The offensive woes can be accredited to the Cardinal’s strong perimeter defense and length down low.[img_assist|nid=29011|title=Facing the pressure|desc=Sophomore Ryan Wittman struggled to find his scoring touch with little room to shoot during Cornell’s first round NCAA loss, 77-53, to Stanford on Thursday in Anaheim, Calif.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“I think our defensive intensity was great,” said Cardinal guard Anthony Goods. “We got into guys, we had active hands and we were able to force some turnovers and get them to take tough shots. We also rebounded the ball well, kicked it ahead and were able to get some good looks that way.”
Cornell sophomore Louis Dale was one of the Red’s members who had a hard time scoring. The Ivy League Player of the Year finished with 12 points on 4-of-16 shooting, including 0-for-8 in the first stanza. While Stanford’s Fred Washington and Lawrence Hill provided tough perimeter defense for the Cardinal, sophomore 7-0 Robin Lopez did his part on the interior, blocking five shots and altering many others.
Having lost in his last two appearances in the NCAA Tournament with Stanford, head coach Trent Johnson keyed in on sophomore Ryan Wittman to avoid a three-game tournament losing streak. The plan worked, as Wittman shot 2-for-11 from the floor, scoring only eight points.[img_assist|nid=28933|title=Wait ‘Till Next Year|desc=Sophomores Ryan Wittman (left) and Alex Tyler (right), and senior Jason Hartford (center) stand after being introduced at the start of Stanford’s 77-53 win over Cornell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. |link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Similar to the Red, the Cardinal came out slow offensively as well, only scoring six points in the first eight minutes. Cornell head coach Steve Donahue came into the contest wanting to put pressure on Stanford’s low post scoring threats, the Lopez twins. But this strategy would eventually prove unsuccessful. Despite the more offensively talented Lopez twin, Brook, suffering from early foul trouble, the Red could not take advantage of its opportunity, as Stanford’s guards and bench players hit perimeter jumpers. Guards Goods, Kenny Brown and Landry Fields combined for 21 points in the first half, outscoring the Red by four in the stanza.
“We started a little bit slow but the bench really picked us up,” said senior forward Fred Washington. “I think we were up by six or eight, the subs came in, and ended the half up by 20. That was a big boost.”
“You almost have to pick your poison here,” Donahue said. “My feeling was that once they saw what we were doing that they would go to some more shooters. … My feeling was if they brought in shooters, then our strategy’s going to be really hard at that point. And they made us pay for it.”
The rebounding differential didn’t do anything to help the Red’s chances. The team lost the rebounding battle, 47-25, and allowed 17 second chance points to its four.
Over the first 10 minutes of the contest the Red was still in it, only trailing by three points despite shooting 5-for-15 from the field. Once Stanford got into its groove, however, it was hard for the Red to recover. The Red would head into halftime trailing 38-17 and despite Wittman hitting a 3 to start the second stanza, the Cardinal proved to be too strong for the Red as sophomore Robin Lopez and senior Taj Finger six consecutive points each. Brown then followed with two 3-pointers.