December 20, 2010

Men’s Basketball Drops Seventh Straight With 75-64 Loss to Bucknell

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A return home was not the cure for the Cornell men’s basketball team’s struggles, as the Red lost its seventh straight game, 75-64, to steady Patriot League foe Bucknell. Sophomore forward Mike Muscala scored 20 points, guards Joe Willman and Byran Cohen combined for 32 and the Bison spoiled Cornell’s first game at Newman Arena in a month with help from a spotty all-around performance by the Red.

For the Red (2-8, 0-0 Ivy League), sophomore guard Errick Peck continued his strong play since returning to the starting lineup, scoring a career-high 21 points to go along with eight rebounds. Senior guard Max Groebe added 15 points on 5-of-7 3-point shooting after making only two of his previous 18 attempts from beyond the arc.

But backcourt mates Chris Wroblewski and Andrew Ferry shot a combined 4-of-20 from the field, Cornell once again received little production from its forwards and the Red allowed Bucknell (6-6, 0-0 Patriot League) to shoot 56 percent from the field in the second half.

“We didn’t get stops in the second half,” said head coach Bill Courtney. “They shot 56 percent and that’s just unacceptable. We’ve got to be better. We have to be better in a lot of areas, and it’s going to start with defense.”

After Ferry’s first points of the game on a 3-pointer gave Cornell a 47-46 lead with 11:57 remaining, Bucknell scored on seven of its next nine possessions to build a 62-53 lead with 4:53 to play on a jumper from Cohen.

The Red crawled within 64-60 on a Wroblewski layup with 3:21 remaining, but seven Bucknell free throws down the stretch sealed the 11-point victory.

The Bison scored 15 points in the game’s first four minutes, and jumped out to a 19-11 advantage with 13:27 left in the opening frame on a layup from senior point guard Darryl Shazier. That’s when Peck and Groebe got going, combining to score the last 20 Red points of the first half. Five straight points from Peck in the first minute of the second half gave Cornell its first lead of the game, 36-34.

However, Bucknell’s modest inside production proved the difference during its 41-28 run the rest of the way. The Bison outscored Cornell in the paint 18-4 in the second period, as the Red forwards were frequently slow on defense and nonexistent on offense.

“We’re not big and we’re not athletic,” Courtney said. “So if we allow their forwards to catch it down low, there’s not really much we can do. That was a huge defensive breakdown for us to allow their post guys to get those touches.”

Nine of Bucknell’s 14 second-half field goals came in the paint.

“We can’t let up that many easy points inside,” Peck said. “If you get killed in points in the paint, you’re going to lose the game — it’s as simple as that.”

After out-rebounding Binghamton, 42-23, in a 69-68 defeat on Saturday — including three offensive rebounds on its last possession with failed put-backs — Cornell was characteristically outworked on the glass against the Bison, 37-28.

Bucknell shot 50 percent for the game, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range, while the Red made 41.5 percent overall. Courtney acknowledged that missed shots on easy opportunities — although the Red did shoot better than its season average of 37.5 percent — do affect the confidence of his players.

“It kind of deflates our team,” he said. “Then we make another miss, and then they score again. Then we turn it over, they score again. In those critical moments, we haven’t gotten enough confidence in what we do to make the right plays.”

Peck, who slowed down in the second half due to foul trouble on several debatable calls, questions the confidence of the team altogether, too.

“First and foremost, it’s all about confidence. We’ve got to come out and know that we are going to win games this year. I mean, we’re 2-8, but we are a good team. … Come out and be ready to win.”

Cornell players will head home for the Holidays this week and reconvene in Ithaca before the Red attempts to snap its skid against New Hampshire in Richmond, Va., on Dec. 29 as part of the 2010 VCU Christmas Tournament.

“We’ve just got to take a couple days off — spend time with the family and evaluate from a personal standpoint what you can do to get better,” said senior forward and tri-captain Aaron Osgood, who had five points and three rebounds in 11 minutes of action.

After the tournament, two more non-conference home games during the first week of 2011 lie before the beginning of Ivy League play. Courtney insists the club’s aspirations do not change.

“We’re going to do a lot of re-evaluating, but I’m not going to make any drastic changes. But we’re not the same team we were in Minnesota — we were a much better ball club then,” Courtney said, speaking of his squad’s near-upset of then-No. 15 Minnesota on Dec. 4.

“I’m not giving up the thought that we will compete for the Ivy League championship, but we just have to get some things corrected and get better.”

Original Author: Quintin Schwab