February 14, 2011

Men’s Basketball’s Comeback vs. Tigers Falls Short

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The Red nearly knocked Princeton out of its first place slot in Newman Arena on Saturday before Kareem Maddox’s two points for the Tigers allowed his team to edge out the win over Cornell, 57-55. The back and forth game came down to the last minutes of play, when the Red couldn’t get the offensive plays it needed to come out with a victory against this top-ranked opponent.

“They were so athletic, in particular Maddox, and at the end of the day it came out that they made some plays and we didn’t,” said head coach Bill Courtney. “We played a game against the best team in the league where we didn’t make shots and we were still right there with a chance to win.”

After Maddox tied up the score with under two minutes left to play, he put Princeton (19-4, 7-0 Ivy League) ahead by two with about 10 seconds to go in the game. Cornell (6-16, 2-6) tried its best to reverse the Tigers’ lead and took back possession in the final seconds, but couldn’t sink the shot.

Junior guard Andrew Ferry took a three-point shot at the buzzer that just missed the net, in a last ditch effort for the Red to claim the lead.

“Coach [Courtney] said that if they score we want to push it and be aggressive and not let them set up,” said junior guard and tri-captain Chris Wroblewski. “With 10 seconds left we were down two and I tried to keep my composure throughout the whole game, but it’s tough. … I wouldn’t want anyone else shooting that 3 but Ferry.”

The Red proved adept defensively throughout the game in working to block the Tigers’ main scorers, shutting out Princeton’s Dan Mavraides and allowing his teammate Ian Hummer only six points.

“Two things about our defense — we wanted to pressure them and take them off their offense and I think we were successful at doing that at times, but the times we didn’t do that the other key was to stop them from posting up,” Courtney said.

Cornell held its own defensively, not letting the Tigers open the scoring gap in the first half. The Red trailed by four at the half, with the score at 24-28 at the break.

“This was the kind of game plan we wanted. We wanted Maddox and Hummer. We knew they were big keys and we wanted to confuse them and bring a lot of pressure,” Wroblewski said. “They definitely had size and athleticism on us and we tried to use more of our depth. We played a lot of our guys and tried to push up the tempo.”

Cornell dominated much of the second half and led by six at one point. However, Maddox, one of the League’s top players and contender for Ivy League Player of the Year award, proved to be a challenge to slow down.

“[Maddoz] had matchups where we’d have two or three guys around him and he just jumps in the air—like with that rebound in the first half—when we boxed him out and he just jumps over guys to get it,” Courtney said. “There’s not a lot we could have done differently to guard that guy.”

Maddox put 23 points up on the board for Princeton, blocked four shots, took six rebounds and managed three assists.

“We threw everything we had at him—we tried doubling down and threw [Adam] Wire and [Errick] Peck on him—he’s just a great player,” Wroblewski said.

Princeton put the pressure on Cornell, and made it hard for the Red to come away with many threes. Cornell made three of its attempted 17 three-pointers, while Princeton was one for eight.

“I don’t know that they took it away. I just think we missed shots. I give credit to their defense for challenging some shots but some of the looks that Max [Groebe] and Andrew [Ferry] got were the same exact ones they got last night and they just didn’t go into the basket,” Courtney said. “Between Chris, Andrew and Max we went zero for nine.  When that happens it’s going to be tough for our team to win.”

Though the Red didn’t take the win, Cornell can build on the way it played this weekend, both in nearly beating this top-ranked League opponent and in topping Penn in Friday’s overtime win.

“I thought we could have pulled it out and I thought no team in the Ivy League is head and shoulders better than anyone else on any given night,” Wroblewski said.  “We’re definitely playing better as a unit and as a team regardless of what the score was against Princeton.”

On offense, Wroblewski led the Red with 14 points and Errick Peck was right behind with 13.

“We’re getting better and we need to continue to keep working one day at a time, one game at a time [and] one week at a time,” Courtney said.

“I think that we’re much more comfortable with each other on the offensive end,” Wroblewski said. “With this game it doesn’t really reflect in the score because Princeton plays such a slower pace of a game, but this is something to build on and we’re looking forward to where the team is going.”

Original Author: Laura Dwulet