March 10, 2013

M. BASKETBALL | Injury Hurts C.U. In Final Two Games Of 2012-13

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The Cornell men’s basketball team finished up its season on the road this weekend with two losses, extending its losing streak to six to end the season. On Friday night, the Red (13-18, 5-9 Ivy League) lost to Dartmouth (9-19, 5-9), 76-62, and on Saturday, Harvard (19-9, 11-3) beat the Red, 65-56.

Injuries have been a big factor in the Red’s late-season collapse. The squad again played this weekend without three of its regular starters — sophomore forward Shonn Miller, senior guard Johnny Gray and sophomore guard Devin Cherry. It has been very difficult to replace them on both sides of the court, according to senior captain and point guard Miles Asafo-Adjei.

“Scoring is the thing we [miss the most]. It’s something all those guys do and the majority of our points come from those three,” Asafo-Adjei said. “Defensively, all three of those guys are our better defenders and defense is something we try to hang our hat on all year. To lose three of your better defenders, it’s tough; it’s tough to replace.”

The Red noticeably missed its starters against Dartmouth on defense, as the Green shot 52% from the field. Dartmouth was led by center Gabas Maldunas, who scored a career-high 28 points on 9-14 from the field and 10-12 from the line in just 29 minutes of work. He also grabbed eight rebounds, blocked four shots and had three assists.

“[Maldunas] is a very, very mobile big guy,” Asafo-Adjei explained. “He got most of his points off drives from the free throw line and that’s something that our big guys aren’t necessarily used to guarding.”

For the Red, senior forward Errick Peck did all he could to keep his team in the game, scoring a career-high 26 points and grabbing a team-high 7 rebounds.

“[Peck] played great; he knew he had to step up and was aggressive all game,” Asafo-Adjei said. “He was able to get some shots to fall early and that got him going and kept him hot for the rest of the game. He’s capable of doing that every night and it was fun to watch.”

Freshman guard Nolan Cressler also played well in the loss, scoring 14 points on three three-pointers while grabbing seven rebounds. Despite his youth, Cressler has been a consistent scoring option for the Red, especially in the last four games, where he has averaged 16.8 points per game.

“[Cressler’s] such a good scorer and teams started to realize that as the season went on. They started game planning for him,” Asafo-Adjei said. “As the season continued, he found different ways to score. The Ivy League season was a great learning experience for him. He’s been a constant source of offense for us the entire year and he’s going to be a great player down the road.”

In the season finale against Harvard, the Crimson had a chance to secure the Ivy League’s NCAA bid and the excitement in the building was noticeable.

“There was a great energy in the building; everyone knew they had the chance to clinch the title,” Asafo-Adjei said. “They were playing with a lot of energy and the crowd was very loud. … The atmosphere was more hyped than usual.”

The Red did a good job defending forward Wesley Saunders — the leading scorer in the Ivy League at 16.6 points a game — as he shot just 3-11 from the field. However, he was 8-12 from the free throw line and still finished with 14 points.

“The biggest thing was just to try and keep Saunders away from the basket,” Asafo-Adjei said. “His entire game is trying to get close to the basket and get easy shots, so we just wanted to keep a man between him and the basket and make all his shots tough, which we were able to do. He was still able to score in double figures — he got to the line which helped out — but for the most part, we did a good job on him.”

Despite falling behind by 16 with just nine minutes to play, the Red put together a run and trailed by only five with two minutes to play. However, the injury-depleted Red just couldn’t keep up with the Ivy League champions. Asafo-Adjei played well in the loss, scoring 15 points, a season-high, on 6-8 from the field.

“With all our players injured, I was just trying to be a little more offensive minded the last couple of weekends,” Asafo-Adjei said. “I got some shots to go early, so I just tried to attack the whole night. I didn’t get to play much the night before against Dartmouth because I was in foul trouble, so I just wanted to help my team in any way possible.”

Original Author: Albert Liao