January 19, 2011

Men’s Basketball Marred by Inconsistency, Inability to Close Out Games

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A break from classes didn’t give the Cornell men’s basketball team a break from close losses. The Red went 2-6 over Winter Break, and in head coach Bill Courtney’s first year appears to be headed for the middle of the pack in the Ivy League — at best.

After a hard-fought five-point loss at then-No. 13 Minnesota on Dec. 4, Cornell (4-11, 0-1 Ivy League) lost five more games — three by four points or fewer. The last was a four-point defeat at Columbia in the Red’s Ivy League opener on Saturday. Cornell’s two wins over Break came against Wofford on Dec. 30 in the consolation game of the Richmond Marriot Holidays tournament, and against Stony Brook on Jan. 8 at Newman Arena.

After his team lost in the final minute to New Hampshire the day before, 68-66, Courtney made a bold move to snap Cornell’s eight-game losing streak against Wofford. He started seldom-used reserves in sophomore guard Miles Asafo-Adjei, sophomore forwards Peter McMillan and Josh Figini, and freshman forward Manny Sahota, alongside usual starter and sophomore forward Errick Peck. The Terriers got out to a 15-5 lead, but Cornell shot a blistering 64 percent for the game en route to an 86-80 victory — its first in 43 days.

The story over the Break for Cornell was the steady production from its backcourt trio: junior guard and tri-captain Chris Wroblewski, junior guard Andrew Ferry and sophomore forward Errick Peck. Wroblewski has averaged 16.5 points per game in December and January, while Ferry and Peck have averaged 15.3 and 15.0, respectively, during the same span. All three players have shot better than 43 percent from beyond the arc the past two months.

Inconsistent play and the inability to finish games plagued Cornell over Break just like during the Red’s identical 2-6 start to the season in the fall semester. On Dec. 18, Cornell gave up a 16-point advantage to fall at Binghamton, 69-68. Wroblewski missed a potential game-winning jump shot in the final seconds, and subsequent put-back attempts from senior forward and tri-captain Adam Wire, senior forward Mark Coury and Ferry all rolled off the rim, handing the Red its sixth straight loss.

Cornell was locked in a battle versus New Hampshire on Dec. 29 until a Wildcats 3-point play with 28 seconds remaining broke a 63-all tie and proved the difference. In the Red’s most recent game, it couldn’t quite crawl back from a 14-point halftime deficit against the Lions and fell by four. Cornell also had several opportunities in double-digit home losses to Bucknell on Dec. 20 and Buffalo on Jan. 3, but shot under 40 percent from the field in both games.

Despite the occasional double-digit scoring game from either senior center Mark Coury or senior forward and tri-captain Aaron Osgood, the Red has continued to suffer from ineffective post play. Cornell guards willed the team to victory in each of its two wins during the Break. Ferry had a 25-point outing against Wofford and Wroblewski scored 29 points against Stony Brook in a 60-52 win.

As is the annual custom in mid-January to begin Ivy League play, Cornell and Columbia will finish the second-half of their back-to-back contests this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Newman Arena. The Red then hits the road for two consecutive crucial weekends of Ivy League play before returning home on Feb. 11 against Penn.

Original Author: Quintin Schwab