The Cornell men’s basketball team continued its less than stellar play on the road, losing both games this weekend to rivals Penn (15-11, 7-2 Ivy League) and Princeton (15-10, 6-3). Cornell (10-14, 5-5) had a chance to move to as high as second in the Ivy League this weekend, but the two losses moved the team to fifth, out of contention for the Ivy League championship. The Red lost a close game in the final minutes to Penn, 73-66, before getting blown out by Princeton, 75-57.
Against Penn, Cornell was hampered by turnovers in the first half — turning it over 10 times in the half — but kept pace with the Quakers. No team led by more than seven in the half and Penn led by six, 35-29, entering halftime.
“We were a little nervous controlling the ball and we weren’t making smart plays or smart passes at the beginning of the game,” said senior guard and co-captain Drew Ferry. “It hurt us a little bit at the beginning, but we got it more under control as the game progressed and we did a better job of taking care of it.”
Cornell came out of the intermission with much more energy, going on a 20-8 run in the first eight minutes to take a six-point lead, 49-43. All five Cornell starters scored during this stretch.
“I think we executed a lot better offensively [during that stretch],” Ferry said. “We made some shots and we were able to guard the ball — when you execute offensively and defensively, that’s how you get on a run.”
After this run, Penn guard Zack Rosen took over the game, scoring or assisting on 23 straight points, including three from downtown. He finished the game with 25 points, six assists, five rebounds and just one turnover.
“[Rosen] had a great game; he made some really tough shots,” said junior forward Eitan Chemerinski. “We were just trying to do the best we could to keep the ball out of his hands and just try to keep him from making plays, but he just made some big plays down the stretch.”
Both captains, Ferry and senior guard Chris Wroblewski, had stronger games compared to the first time the two teams competed; however, neither could upstage the show Rosen gave at the end. Ferry scored 17 points, including four 3-pointers, and grabbed six rebounds, while Wroblewksi finished with 14 points, three assists and three rebounds.
The Red was in the game until the very end against Penn; however, against Princeton, Cornell started with very low energy and was unable to mount a comeback — trailing by as many as 23 points before falling, 75-57. Head coach Bill Courtney said he was displeased by the effort his team put forward. He subbed out all five starters at four minutes into the game.
“We definitely didn’t come out effectively or with the intensity that we needed to,” Ferry said. “We gave them a lot of open shots and to their credit, they made their shots.”
After tying the game 14-14 on a layup by freshman guard Devin Cherry, the Tigers went on a 24-8 run in the next six minutes. The Tigers did most of their damage from behind the arc, as they hit five 3-pointers during the run. Wroblewski ended the half by going coast-to-coast to score on a buzzer-beating layup, cutting the lead to 44-32 heading into the break, where Princeton shot 69 percent from the field.
“For us, our defensive intensity and execution was not where it was the first time we played them,” Ferry said. “We let them run their offense and get comfortable at the beginning of the game and once they got into a rhythm and started making shots, there really wasn’t a whole lot we could do to stop that.”
The second half was more of the same, as the Tigers never led by fewer than 13 points. Turnovers played a factor in the Red’s demise, as Cornell turned the ball over 13 times in the second half alone. The silver lining in this game was the appearance of sophomore guard Dominick Scelfo and freshman guard Galal Cancer on the court. This was Scelfo’s first game playing major minutes and he made the most of this opportunity, scoring nine points in the first half. Cancer, who was shooting just 21 percent from the field in his last five games, provided a solid performance, scoring 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field.
“I think [Scelfo and Cancer] are really good players and when given opportunities, they play really well,” Chemerinski said. “We’re just hoping that they’ll continue playing well [when given the chance].”
After this disappointing weekend, the Red knows what it needs to focus on in practice, according to Chemerinski.
“We have to continue to practice hard and continue to put an emphasis on our defense,” he said. “We have to keep working hard, keep practicing hard and hopefully we’ll get better results for the upcoming weekends.”