November 17, 2010

Red Opens Newman in ‘Sweet’ Victory

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On the same night that the Sweet 16 banner honoring last year’s record-breaking 2009-10 campaign was raised to the Newman Arena rafters, the returners from that legendary team did their predecessors –– two of whom were in attendance –– justice, downing Delaware, 75-61, yesterday night in front of a packed student section

Although it was the Blue Hens that posted the first points of the night, it didn’t take long for the Red to reciprocate, with sophomore guard Miles Asafo-Adjei and sophomore forward Errick Peck doing their best Louis Dale/Jeff Foote impersonation –– connecting for an alley-oop that electrified an already-hyped Newman Nation.

“Obviously there’s a lot of nervous energy … and our team showed a little nervous energy, but we were able to bounce back from that and move on,” said head coach Bill Courtney, who picked up his first win in front of the home crowd. “The fans were tremendous tonight. I thought they gave us a great lift [and were] really into the game.”

Although he did not start, junior guard and tri-captain Chris Wroblewski entered the contest at the 17:08 mark, ultimately finishing with 13 points to lead the Red in scoring along with senior guard Max Groebe.

“I think having Chris back on the floor, even though he’s still a little rusty, he provides a sense of calm for all the guys and kind of lets them know it’s going to be okay,” Courtney said.

“[Ski] does it real, real big,” added senior forward Anthony Gatlin, who finished with 12 points on 3-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc. “Starting last year, he brings real experience.”

Yesterday’s home-opener represented a collective, balanced effort, with nine different players getting into the scoring column and seven seeing 20+ minutes of floor time.

“Whatever the situation is, we know we have a lot of guys who can come in and get baskets for us,” said junior guard Andrew Ferry.

Cornell was marred by turnovers in the early goings of the contest, though the team’s difficulty protecting the ball was somewhat mitigated by Delaware’s inability to hit open shots. The Blue Hens shot 0-for-7 from beyond the arc in the first half en route to finishing the game 1-for-13 from the perimeter.

They weren’t alone, as the Red also had trouble connecting from downtown in the opening minutes, with both Ferry and Groebe missing their first attempts of the night.

Delaware’s quick 7-2 advantage proved short-lived, however, as Gatlin provided Cornell with a much-needed spark off the bench, nailing back-to-back 3-pointers to knot things at 10 following a layup courtesy of senior center and tri-captain Aaron Osgood.

The two teams exchanged leads for the next six minutes, before a nice bounce pass from Wroblewski to Coury off a fastbreak led to layup from the senior forward and handed Cornell a 21-18 advantage it would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.

A heads-up offensive rebound by Groebe off a 3-pointer miss from Ferry would help push the Red’s lead to five before a goaltending call on the Blue Hens put the home team up, 25-22, with 3:52 to go in the half.

Delaware would engineer a mini 6-0 run of its own before Ferry nailed a layup at the buzzer to send both teams into the locker room with Cornell on top, 33-28.

Returning to the floor, Cornell did not waste time building an eight-point lead thanks largely to Groebe finding his 3-point stroke –– netting two treys over the course of a minute.

With 12:46 to go, Gatlin drilled his third 3 of the night and was fouled in the process, wasting no time in converting the team’s first four-point play since Ryan Wittman ’10 converted one against Yale last February.

The Red’s lead would balloon to as much as 17, as the defense prevented any major scoring runs by the Blue Hens and the offense did its part to preserve Cornell’s modest 12-game home winning streak.

“We concentrate on two things: defense, and executing on the offense. I think we did a great job on that. A lot of credit goes to our guards; Miles was tremendous –– his composure, his poise tonight,” Courtney said. “We executed in the second half as well as we have all year. We certainly haven’t had a period where we’ve executed like that and part of that is having Chris on the floor to kind of direct traffic even if he’s not making the basket.

Despite getting off to a slow start in the first half, Ferry managed to finish with nine points on 4-of-9 shooting from the floor, with many of his baskets coming at the end of the shot clock.

“It’s been a little frustrating for me … but I know eventually [the 3-pointers] will fall,” Ferry said. “I’m looking forward to that day.”

As usual, senior guard Adam Wire came up big for Cornell when it mattered, although his contributions might not have been reflected in the box score. If the 3-pointer was Wittman’s calling card, then Wire’s must be pure hustle, as the tri-captain was all over the court, grabbing offensive rebounds and notching steals.

Freshman guard Devon Saddler led the Blue Hens with 15 points and six boards, while sophomore forward Jamelle Hagins contributed 14 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots.

Neither team was particularly efficient from the free-throw line, with Cornell finishing at 65.2 percent from the charity stripe after shooting 1-for-4 in the opening frame. Delaware, meanwhile, converted on 12 of their 19 free-throw attempts.

Defensive rebounding proved a high point for the Red, as the team prevented the Blue Hens from getting a lot of second chances.

With under a minute to go, Courtney emptied his bench, allowing freshmen Dwight Tarwater, Manny Sahota and Jake Matthews to make their Newman Arena debuts.

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Original Author: Alex Kuczynski-Brown