March 2, 2009

Red Defense Contains Barnett in Win Over Dartmouth

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When Cornell traveled to take on Dartmouth, a surprise contender for the Ivy title, on Friday night, some might have expected a repeat of the Red’s 79-76 double overtime thriller win on Feb. 14. But junior Ryan Wittman’s hot shooting night helped to douse the upstart Green’s title hopes and lift Cornell over Dartmouth, 75-57. The loss dropped Dartmouth into a fourth-place tie in the Ancient Eight, but the Green rebounded with a 67-53 win over Columbia on Saturday to pull into a three-way tie for third. Cornell is in first place and has a two-game lead with two left to play in the Ivy League schedule.
“We knew it was going to be a serious game,” said senior center Jeff Foote. “It was the biggest game in 50 years for them, and we knew they were going to be hyped up. We just wanted to play our game, so we came out and executed our game plan.”
Wittman shot 7-of-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from long range to lead the Red (19-9, 9-3 Ivy League) with 20 points. Dartmouth’s (9-17, 7-5) centerpiece player, senior forward Alex Barnett, scored 19 and grabbed nine boards for the Green, but was overshadowed by Wittman, a potential rival for Ivy League Player of the Year honors.
“We rotated different guys on [Barnett], gave him different looks,” said freshman guard Chris Wroblewski. “We played five-man defense, made sure we knew where he was on the floor. Foote was on him during the game, Wittman, Battle came in and gave us great minutes on defense. We were just trying to keep fresh legs with him.”
Three other Red players finished in double figures. Junior guard Louis Dale, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, put up 14 points and five boards, Foote scored 11 and grabbed six boards and freshman guard Chris Wroblewski scored 11 and added two rebounds, two assists and two steals. Cornell used a steady onslaught of 3-pointers to increase its lead, making 11-of-19 on the night. As a team, the Red shot 50 percent from the field — much better than Dartmouth’s 35 percent.
“We focused a lot on our defense all week in practice, and we knew what they were going to try to do on offense,” Foote said.
Sophomore guard Ronnie Dixon scored 12 for the Green — the only player besides Barnett in double figures. Dartmouth’s 6-9 sophomore forward Clive Weeden snagged a game-high eight rebounds.
Barnett helped Dartmouth off to a hot start, scoring his team’s first six points to push the Green to an 8-2 lead. Cornell stormed back after a time-out and eventually pulled away thanks to its defense. The Red held the Green scoreless for a 6:54 stretch late in the first half, and went into the intermission with a 33-25 lead.
Two second-half 3-pointers from senior guard Adam Gore disrupted Dartmouth’s momentum, built up during a 9-4 run, and pushed Cornell’s lead to 12. Two more treys by Wittman and another 3-pointer by Wroblewski quieted the crowd and finished off a 5:10 stretch in which Cornell hit six consecutive 3’s.
“Those 3’s were huge,” Foote said.