Let me preface this by saying, I’m tired of moral victories. I can deal with them to a point, but after that line is crossed, it’s just an excuse for not finishing games. Illinois and Penn State are not your typical opponent on an Ivy League schedule, I get that. However, once the ball is tipped, it doesn’t matter what name is on the front of the jersey. What I saw was two winnable basketball games.
With this said, after watching Cornell fall 74-67 to Penn State, I find myself smiling ear-to-ear. Yes, a victory would have been all that much sweeter, but with the way events transpired, this is a result I can live with, maybe even feel confident about. Consider the following:
- Cornell was unexpectedly without their defense stopper Miles Asafo-Adjei who would have created a more favorable defensive matchup against star Penn State guard, Tim Frazier.
- Cornell has the ability to shoot their way into any game, but Penn State actually out-shot the Big Red from behind the arc.
- Cornell had a -7 rebounding differential and was outrebounded 16-9 on the offensive glass.
- Cornell was whistled for 29 fouls. Penn State, just 13.
Tough to stay in a game against a Big Ten team with all those factors working against you, but Cornell was able to do more than just hang around. This was a 2-point game with under 1:30 to go.
The reason why I can accept this loss as a moral victory is because of the way Cornell handled this misfortune titled ‘Foul Trouble’. Chris Wroblewski, Josh Figini, and Eitan Chemerinki were affected the most by the quick whistle. To understand the extent of Cornell’s foul problems:
- First half, Eitan plays 4 minutes, commits 3 fouls. He picked up his 4th after less than 2 minutes of 2nd half action.
- Wroblewski whistled for his 4th personal foul with 9:34 left to play.
- Figini follows suit and picks up his 4th foul with 9:31 to play.
Eitan checked out at the 14:07 mark, never returned.
Figini checked out at the 9:31 mark, never returned. Wroblewski took a seat with 9:34 to play and sat for over 4 minutes. That 4-minute span was a potential death sentence for Cornell. The score was 49-49, but Penn State was getting hot. The Big Red had three Freshman on the floor, including Dave LaMore who has played a grand total of 3 minutes of college basketball before Wednesday night. Drew Ferry was on the court, but Penn State was not going to let Ferry beat them, especially with so few perceived weapons in at the time. Every time Ferry touched the ball, no matter how far from the basket, two defenders jumped out on him, making it almost impossible for him to launch one of his famous quick-trigger threes. The offense had to come from somewhere else, and it did. When Wroblewski checked back into the game 4 minutes and 7 seconds later, the Red trailed by just 1.
The youth of Cornell had to grow up quickly and they had to do so against a Big Ten team. Shonn Miller, who has been struggling since the 13-day exam break stepped up as Cornell’s offensive go-to-guy. Galal Cancer was forced to run the offense without the crutch of having the steady hand of Chris Wroblewski next to him. Dave LaMore had to learn what college basketball is all about.
The term “moral victory” gets thrown around way too much in sports. It is loosely applied to games to help fans feel better about close losses. However, if there is any game that can be labeled a moral victory, this is it. We watched Miller, Cancer, and LaMore grow up on the court. This won’t be the last game that Bill Courtney’s squad is limited by foul trouble. There also will come a time when his main offensive weapons just don’t have it. What Coach Courtney found Wednesday night were guys he can count on. Saturday night games in the Ivy League are notorious for tired legs, poor officiating, and let downs. Wednesday’s performance should give him the confidence to call upon any one of these freshman to play a leading role once the 14-game tournament is upon us.