January 31, 2011

Men’s Basketball Falls to Crimson in Blowout Loss

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — They say revenge is best served cold. Other times, it is just plain served. Nearly a year to the day after the Cornell men’s basketball team embarrassed Harvard by 36 points in front of a sold-out Newman Arena crowd, the Crimson returned the favor — blowing out the Red, 78-57, on Saturday night before a nearly filled, white-clad Lavietes Pavilion. With the loss, Cornell (4-14 overall) drops to 0-4 in the Ivy League — its worst conference start since the 2001-02 season — while Harvard (15-3) remains undefeated at 4-0. Despite the absence of Jeremy Lin ’10, who now plays for the Golden State Warriors, the Crimson showcased why it is projected to duke it out with Princeton for the Ivy League crown. Aided by the talent and depth of its roster — not to mention a willingness to employ an unselfish brand of basketball — Harvard managed to place five players in double-figures, as Cornell struggled to find a solution to the frontcourt duo of junior Keith Wright and sophomore Kyle Casey inside. Casey, the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year, and Wright, who has made a habit of touting himself as an Ivy League Player of the Year candidate via Twitter, combined for 37 points and 20 rebounds. Errick Peck, who was battling a stomach bug for most of the weekend, saw limited action but still managed to lead the Red in scoring with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go along with four rebounds in his 17 minutes on the floor. The sophomore starter was the only Cornell player to score in double-figures.Junior guard and tri-captain Chris Wroblewski, who has been playing with a partially torn hip flexor, managed seven points, four rebounds and five assists despite only shooting 3-for-13 from the field. Senior guard/tri-captain Adam Wire and freshman guard Jake Matthews each chipped in six apiece, while sophomore guard Miles Asafo-Adjei contributed seven off the bench, including one of only five Cornell 3-pointers on the night. Wire led the team in rebounding with eight, followed closely by senior center Mark Coury at six. “They still are a tough team; they play so much better than their record,” said Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker after the game. “They’ve had a tough road with lots of tough losses, but I give all the credit in the world to Bill Courtney — what he’s been able to do to keep those kids fighting, scratching and clawing. I know how hard that can be sometimes when things don’t go your way.”Peck got things started for his team, nailing an early 3 to hand Cornell its first and only lead of the game. However, Harvard reciprocated with a 13-0 run spearheaded by sophomore guard Brandyn Curry’s hot shooting from downtime, and Wright/Casey’s contributions in the paint. Although the Red twice managed to cut the deficit to three in the first half, the Crimson kept its poise and was quick to respond every time Cornell threatened. With time expiring, freshman guard Laurent Rivard calmly dribbled the ball before knocking down a 3 at the buzzer over the outstretched arms of freshman guard Jake Matthews — handing the Crimson a 41-31 advantage heading into the locker room. “[Rivard’s shot] was very big [and] gave us a double-digit margin that we were trying to get throughout the first half,” Amaker said. “Getting that shot at the end of the half gave some momentum to our team.”There may not have been 14 NBA scouts and the likes of Andy Katz and Jeff Goodman in attendance (as there were at last year’s matchup in Cambridge), but that’s not to say the Lavietes crowd didn’t feature at least one familiar face. Former Red skipper Steve Donahue, now seated in the stands instead of on the sidelines, made the trek over from Chestnut Hill to see the new-look Cornell team in action, and even addressed the squad at halftime.

“It seemed like old times, it was good to see him. It was one of those ‘Stick together, play for your teammates’ kind of speeches,” Wroblewski said.

Peck made an acrobatic shot off a lob from junior guard Andrew Ferry to kick off the second frame and fuel a 7-2 Cornell run that brought the Red within five. However, that was as close as the visiting team would come for the remainder of the contest, as the Crimson utilized a balanced scoring attack to push its lead to as much as 24.

“Balance is the word for us. … We are thinking along the lines of having really good balance,” Amaker said. “The inside-out combination for us is so critical.”

Cornell managed to shoot 43.1 percent overall, but connected on only 5-of-16 from beyond the arc — four of which came in the first half. Harvard, meanwhile, doubled the Red’s trey total en route to shooting 46.6 percent for the game and a blistering 50 percent from outside.

Amaker mentioned defending the 3-point line as a point of emphasis for his team heading into Saturday’s matchup.

“[We were] certainly trying to defend their 3’s,” he said. “We thought that was critical, and also wanted to play without fouling, keep them off the foul line. We use that phrase ‘Defend the lines’ — 3-point line and the foul line.”

Indeed, Cornell made only three trips to the free-throw line throughout, compared to Harvard’s 20 appearances — of which it converted on 14 attempts.

The Crimson capitalized on the Red’s miscues, scoring 22 points off of 13 Cornell turnovers. The home team, meanwhile, committed only four turnovers while dishing out 17 assists — numbers Amaker said he was “blown away by.”

“I thought we took care of the ball incredibly well, and then we shared it,” he said. “It was nice that our kids had a lot of fun playing.”

One night after calling out his team for a lackluster effort that resulted in a 64-57 loss to perennial Ivy cellar-dweller Dartmouth (5-13, 1-3 Ivy), Cornell head coach Bill Courtney admitted he was proud of the Red’s play against a top contender.

“I thought we came out with a lot more intensity than we did [Friday] night, so I was really pleased by that,” he said.

After struggling with rebounding all season, Cornell managed to hold a narrow, 36-34, advantage on the glass against Harvard. However, that’s not to say there isn’t more “work” to be done.

“I think we definitely played really hard physically. I think we still had some mental lapses in the first half, the second half, too,” Wroblewski said. “We gave up some easy buckets, some offensive rebounds. We’ve got to start cutting those out of our game.”

Original Author: Alex Kuczynski-Brown