February 23, 2009

Men’s Basketball Wins Big in Rhode Island

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[img_assist|nid=35459|title=Beyond the arc|desc=Men’s basketball showed solid shooting from the field and from 3-point range in the Red’s dominant victory over Brown this weekend.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
For the second time this season, the men’s basketball team followed a lackluster performance with a masterful showing just one night later. The Red’s dominating 85-45 win over Brown on Saturday night followed its 12-point loss to Yale on Friday. Call it bipolarity, inconsistency or just an occasional dud. But the fact remains: The win put the team in great position — a two-game lead with four games to play — to capture the Ivy title in the coming weeks.
Cornell (18-8, 8-2 Ivy) blew out Brown (7-17, 1-9) behind the force of five double-figure scorers, staunch defense, strong post play, aggressive rebounding and efficient perimeter shooting. In fact, save blocks, there was not a single category the Red did not control.
“I think we just came with a little more energy, definitely than we did Friday night,” said junior forward Alex Tyler. “We thought we had a pretty big advantage down low and we wanted to take advantage of that.”
And take advantage they did. Senior center Jeff Foote and classmate Brian Kreefer combined with Tyler to create a front line that scored 36 of the Red’s 40 points in the paint. The trio shot a combined 15-for-21, with Foote leading the way at 6-of-7 for 16 points. Foote also pulled down a team-high nine boards.
“We definitely had the emphasis for me and Foote particularly to get to the offensive boards,” Tyler said. “If we get to the offensive glass and get a couple more opportunities, we have people who can make shots and make plays. So the more opportunities we can get, that definitely helps us out in the long run.”
It was not all post play that steered Cornell to the victory. Players had talked about trying to take advantage of Brown’s inexperienced guard corps, and that they did. Junior Ryan Wittman was perfect from behind the arc in the first half, scoring 11 of his 15 total points before intermission.
Junior point guard Louis Dale chipped in 12 points of his own, and although freshman Chris Wroblewski didn’t hit a field goal, he dished out five assists. Combined, the trio of guards had 12 assists to only three turnovers.
“A lot of teams can go into the post and get you to guard you and then kick it out,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “I think we, in reality, are better having them chase our guards and having our bigs active on the perimeter and then go back inside. That works for us for the most part. People can chase us and it seems to work well and spaces people out.”
The first half also saw the Red take advantage of the Bears mistakes, translating seven Brown turnovers into 11 points. For the game, Cornell capitalized with 20 points off turnovers to Brown’s three.
“It’s a good thing for us,” Donahue said. “We talked about it [after Friday’s loss at Yale]. I didn’t think we were that active the night before. We talked about that. Brown is a very good passing team and they don’t turn the ball over that much. We were very active though and got our hands on balls. Obviously, when we do that we’re pretty good in transition.”
A 17-point halftime lead quickly bloated to 30 within minutes of the second stanza starting. This time, the post players did the damage. Cornell carried an 18-16 edge on point in the paint heading into the break. The Red frontcourt claimed a 22-9 advantage in the second half.
Foote scored the first six points out of the break, four of them via dunks. The second dunk was the result of back-to-back offensive rebounds by the center. The putback highlighted a 15-3 differential in second-chance points which was yet another factor in the Cornell dominance.
“In the second half, when you come out, you want to see how teams are going to react,” Donahue said. “[Foote] just set the tone with three big buckets, and two dunks. It probably took the wind out of their sails.”
In total, the trio of Kreefer, Foote and Tyler contributed 10 of the 15 points in the run that put the game completely out of reach.
Brown couldn’t hang with Cornell either because its main scoring threat, Matt Mullery, was nullified in the second half. After putting up 10 on 5-of-6 shooting in the first stanza, Mullery was held to a lone free throw after the break. As a team, the Bears only scored 18 after intermission.
“He’s very good at getting post-position and using his body well to create space,” Tyler said. “He works hard basically the whole game. We did a better job in the second half of keeping him out of the post and from getting good post-position like he did in the first half. I think a couple times I got caught on the high side in the first half. He got a couple easy ones, [so in the second half] we just tried to make him shoot over us and get around us a little big more in the second half.”
About seven minutes after the lead hit 30, Donahue started to empty his bench with eight minutes remaining.