Season in Review: Cornell Big Red

Chris Wroblewski helped guide the Big Red through a rebuilding year that finished on a sweet note for the team's departing seniors and brought optimism to fans in Ithaca. (Photo Credit: cornellbigred.com)

This is the sixth piece in a series looking back at how each Ivy League squad fared during the 2010-11 season. The Cornell Big Red ended the year at 10-18 (6-8), finishing in a tie for fifth place.

A traffic jam slowed the Red team bus’ progress to a halt en route to game one of the 2010-2011 season. Stop. Roll a few feet forward. Pause again. Accelerate. Miss the street. U-turn. Accelerate one more time. Finally reach the destination.As the bus crawled toward the University of

Albany arena it felt as if the world wasn’t quite ready to let go of Cinderella from the previous year. Eight seniors had departed from the team that reached the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history.  An entirely new coaching staff was in place. The lone holdover from the starting lineup was a junior guard who was too banged up from the preseason to play on opening night. What had been a well-oiled machine several months prior was missing several parts and seemed due for a factory recall.

Outside of a win that evening and another in the home opener against Delaware the following week, the first half of the season seemed bleak for the Red.  After a 24-point drubbing at the hands of Seton Hall, first-year head coach Bill Courtney likened his squad without top-returner Chris Wroblewski to “Linus without his blankey.” Cornell was missing more than just a leader early in the campaign though.

The non-conference slate was chock-full of teases. A two-point loss at home to St. Bonaventure was followed by close defeats at Lehigh and Boston University. Despite falling by 20 at the Carrier Dome, the Red played upstate-New York rival Syracuse even in the second half. An upset bid fell just short against the then-thirteenth ranked Golden Gophers in Minnesota. By late December, eight consecutive losses had piled up and the Red had dropped six games by five points or fewer.

As Ivy play approached, Cornell seemed to turn a corner.  A pair of wins bracketed a loss to Buffalo and sophomore forward Errick Peck began to evolve into the player that the Red faithful had expected to see several months prior. Hope was temporarily restored that rebuilding was merely a non-conference process.

It quickly became clear that the Red was still a work in progress though. Just two weeks removed from the longest Cornell skid in over a decade, the group from East Hill embarked on another troubled journey. It’s difficult to determine  exactly when Cornell hit rock bottom. The Red was swept by travel-partner Columbia for the first time since 2002, fell into a 28-point first half hole at Ancient Eight bottom-feeder Dartmouth, got trounced in Cambridge despite playing solid basketball and gave up a 10-point lead in the final 1:58 at Yale. After five league games, the Red was still winless in conference play and had sunk Now eGamingReview reviews that Holland has released a request plans (RFP) to have an gambling online partner. to dead last in the Ivy standings.

The low point may be uncertain, but the turning point is much more clear. At season’s close, Coach Courtney singled out the loss at Yale as the game that began to shift the momentum for Cornell. After shuffling through eight different starting lineups, the staff finally settled on a group for the opening tip. Surprisingly, Cornell’s top five was not its most effective starting five. Freshman Jake Matthews joined sophomores Josh Figini and Miles Asafo-Adjei in the rotation while Peck and Wroblewski cemented starting roles for stability’s sake.

Cornell finally broke the Ancient Eight ice in Providence, putting six players in double figures to top Brown in decisive fashion. From that point on the rotation was set. The first three to five minutes of each half were dedicated to the energy guys before the veterans would find their way onto the court. Mark Coury and Adam Wire subbed in the frontcourt while Drew Ferry and Max Groebe found minutes in the backcourt. Former manager Johnny Gray contributed at any position one through four, while some combination of Anthony There are two characteristics of a virgo horoscope to be taken under control: possessiveness and unwillingness to change his life. Gatlin, Eitan Chemerinski, Manny Sahota and Peter McMillan would plug in the final few minutes.

Overall, the stats from the first half and the second half of the year did not look drastically different. Yes, points in the paint increased, rebounding improved and front court play in general solidified as the year progressed, but beyond numbers it was a sense of cohesion that seemed to form as the season wore on.  The Sweet Sixteen team of a year before was branded nationally as a group of best friends whose camaraderie off the court became chemistry on the court.  Eventually that same joint swagger began to show for the new look Red.

The 14-man rotation, which may have been even larger save several injuries and ailments, reeled off consecutive wins for the first time all year, beating Penn in overtime at home the following weekend. The next night Cornell was just a buzzer-beater short of knocking off league-champion Princeton. It became clear that something was brewing in Ithaca.

In the coming weeks Mark Coury became an offensive force for the first time in his long career, tying his personal best with 13 points on back-to-back nights at Princeton and Penn. Outside of Coury, contributions came from different players each night. Not knowing where points would come from went from a problem early in the campaign to a solution late in the year. With a different group showing up as the supporting cast each night, the Red was able to rely on the entire roster by season’s close.

Losses to co-champs Harvard and Princeton were the only two L’s remaining on Cornell’s schedule. The Red finished strong, winning six of its last nine and four of its last five, including three straight to end the year on the group’s longest win streak of the season.

On Senior Night versus Yale, the turnaround was completed. Against arguably the top frontcourt player in the Ancient Eight, Greg Mangano, the Red forwards performed well, once again establishing a 10-point lead with 1:58 remaining against the Elis. This time there was no falter. Instead of crumbling down the stretch as they had done four weeks prior, Cornell extended the lead and sent seniors Aaron Osgood, Mark Coury and Adam Wire out with a victory.

Stop. Roll a few feet forward. Pause again. Accelerate. Miss the street. U-turn. Accelerate one more time. Finally reach the destination.

The 2010-2011 campaign was far from smooth for the Red, but the progress in year one under head coach Bill Courtney was clear. After significant rebuilding, a destination – albeit an unfamiliar one – was reached. Three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths makes 10-18 (6-8 Ivy) feel like a disappointment, but in a year of complete upheaval for the program, the Red met all reasonable expectations and provided hope for the future.

Short-lived spring rumors hinted that Bill Courtney would jump at an offer from Final Four participant George Mason, but with the new headman staying put and only three graduating seniors departing, Cornell seems primed for a year on the rise.

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