A Cornell comeback within a Cornell comeback

After Colgate’s Damon Sherman-Newsome scored the first eight points of the game against Cornell, the Big Red looked a lot like the 2-26 Big Red of 2013-14: sluggish and ineffective. Later, a 23-6 Big Red deficit had them looking like a carbon copy of that 2013-14 squad.

Then Devin Cherry kicked his game into high gear, turning in a career performance and almost single-handedly turning the game around for Cornell. Cherry finished with 21 points, five assists, four boards and three steals while shooting an efficient 8-for-15 from the floor. He scored 20 of Cornell’s first 49 points and made sure the Big Red didn’t fade completely in the first half. He played with passion and he was consistently rewarded for it.

To put Cornell’s win into proper perspective, the Big Red lost to Colgate by 23 last year. Cornell is making sure we all know this is not last year.

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What to make of No. 25 Harvard’s loss to Holy Cross

No. 25 Harvard’s 58-57 loss to Holy Cross tonight in Boston was surprising mostly because of how it went down – turnovers at every turn.

Committing 24 turnovers is an easy way to lose games and it was the Harvard way tonight. Nine of those 24 turnovers came from Siyani Chambers, who scored one solitary point on 0-for-3 shooting a year after he scored seven straight points down the stretch to beat Holy Cross in 2013-14. Wesley Saunders exploded for 24 points, 12 boards and four steals, but last night proved that Saunders taking nearly 40 percent of the team’s shots wasn’t necessarily a good thing as the rest of the offense struggled to get in sync. Chambers especially looked apprehensive and too often tried to make plays that just weren’t there.

What does this mean for the Crimson going forward? Well, it means that when Chambers has one of the worst games of his career, Harvard isn’t likely to do too well. Beyond that, though, this game demonstrates that the tendency to rely overly on Saunders to make things happen is there and will continue be there when Chambers is struggling. That’s good news for the rest of the Ivy League. Harvard still needs to find an athletic wing that can come in and provide perimeter shooting when Chambers or Saunders aren’t getting it done. That was the narrative for Harvard all offseason and after a Beantown-based loss to Holy Cross, it still is.

 

Penn basketball dealing with deja vu

It wasn’t deja vu until it was.

For a while, it was another vision entirely, this 2014-15 Penn basketball team.

Who was this Darnell Foreman with the uncanny floor vision? This Sam Jones with the spot-up sharpshooting? This hustle and offensive rebounding tenacity across the board?

Penn trailed 14-5 early but got it together to build a seven-point lead with eight minutes to play at home against Delaware State, one of the worst teams in Division I last season.

And that’s when the deja vu set in. The rebounds started drying up. Jones’s shots started rimming out, giving him a 3-for-11 night from the field. Foreman continued controlling the point but not the ball as Tony Hicks took over, settling for and missing perimeter shot after perimeter shot as the second half wore on. Then Hicks airballed a three-pointer in the final minute, missing what would have been a game-winning shot as time expired and failing to successfully take the game into his own hands in overtime.

It became the Tony Hicks show, and it didn’t work. Sure, Hicks’s stat line was fantastic – 31 points, five three-pointers, five rebounds and three assists. Sure, this game could have easily went either way.

But it didn’t. It slipped away once again, this time to a no-name visitor that lost more games last season than even Penn.

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Brown’s defense shows up as expected

Brown is who we thought they were! At least so far.

The Bears’ season-opening 70-58 win over St. Peter’s confirms preseason impressions of Brown – this team can really play defense. Brown held the Peacocks to just 36.1 shooting from the field and two-time reigning Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Cedric Kuakumensah registered three more blocks along with an impressive 15-point performance marked by surprisingly effective perimeter shooting on occasion. Rafa Maia notched seven rebounds as well to go along with 13 points.

Most importantly, Tavon Blackmon controlled the pace of the game from the point for Brown, posting 18 points on 4-for-7 shooting, once again proving a legitimate threat from beyond the arc and especially the charity stripe, where he drilled all eight of his free throws. Blackmon is just a steady player who gets it done, and the Bears’ season is off to a solid start. I maintain the Bears are poised to surprise this season.

Princeton’s lack of depth troubling against Rider

Yes, a win is a win, and Princeton’s come-from-behind 64-58 victory over Rider certainly qualifies as a successful season opener. But there’s more to a box score than wins and losses, and the Rider-Princeton box score was discouraging in unexpected ways for the Tigers.

Going into this season, Princeton figured to be one of the deepest teams in the league, even with Denton Koon lost indefinitely with an MCL injury. But what I identified as a potential tendency to rely too heavily on Spencer Weisz and Hans Brase seemed to come to fruition last night, as Brase and Weisz combined for nearly half of the Tigers’ shots from the field. That reliance worked in the end, but more disturbing was Princeton’s surprisingly small rotation of only six players. Mitch Henderson’s Princeton teams have traditionally had much more depth than what was on display last night, but rest assured, the Tigers do not stand a chance in Ivy play without a bench.

Having said that, this is a sample size of only one game and promising freshmen Amir Bell and Aaron Young are just beginning to round into shape at the collegiate level. For now, we know that they can dig deep. Maybe they just can’t play deep yet, that’s all.

Let the Game Previews Begin!

The Ivies are opening their seasons tonight and tomorrow night, so let’s just commence with the game previews already.

The Teams: Yale (0-0) at Quinnipiac (0-0), Friday, 5:30 p.m.

The Skinny: Quinnipiac returns several key pieces from last year’s Bobcats squad that won seven of eight games in February and carried that momentum into a 69-68 CIT opening-round loss to Yale. Still, two of Quinnipiac’s top three scorers from a season ago – Ike Azotam and Umar Shannon – have graduated, leaving senior guard Zaid Hearst to help fill their void. Expect Yale to win this grudge match as Quinnipiac’s offense searches for its identity in its very first game of the season.

The Teams: MIT (0-0) at No. 25 Harvard (0-0), Friday, 7 p.m.

The Skinny: Division III at nationally ranked Division I, anyone? Last season, Harvard blasted MIT, 79-37, so even though MIT returns its top two scorers in senior forwards Matt Redfield and Andrew Acker, the Crimson will win their 10th straight home opener tonight.

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Q&A with Daily Pennsylvanian Senior Sports Editor Steven Tydings

The Daily Pennsylvanian’s annual Penn Basketball Supplement is out today, and I encourage you to check it out, not because I’m a DP alum but because it’s a very thorough, insightful supplement. In fact, there are some genuine nuggets in the DP’s supplement, including Tony Hicks’s reasoning for changing his jersey number from ‘1’ to ’11’ this season – “It was kind of egotistical, and I just wanted to get away from that” – and the team’s reaction to being projected to finish seventh in the Ivy League – “We break huddles; we say: ‘Seven.’ We commit bad plays during practice on offense or defense; sometimes coaches will say ‘Seven.’”

So optimism abounds for Penn basketball in spite of last season’s 8-20 finish, but how’s the team looking up close and personal right now? I reached out to my successor as Daily Pennsylvanian senior sports editor, Steven Tydings, for an inside look at the Quakers.

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Harvard Roster Preview – 2014-15 Edition

Sorry, rest of the Ivy League. Harvard’s still Harvard.

Laurent Rivard, Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey may be gone, but Harvard’s ranked No. 25 in the nation and appears to be locked in cruise control en route to a fourth straight NCAA appearance, even in a loaded Ivy League. But let’s start with the negatives. Where is the perimeter depth now? 2013-14 Ivy Player of the Year Wesley Saunders is back and so is Siyani Chambers, who we’ll get to below. Agunwa Okolie, two-year Mormon church mission hiatus-taker Corbin Miller and rookie Andre Chatfield will all be stepping up to provide that depth. The frontcourt boasts the return of shot-blocking phenom Kenyatta Smith as well as the very well-rounded Steve Moundou-Missi. If the Crimson can find a potent three-point shooting wing who can complement Saunders and Chambers, they’ll be just as good as last year. Even if they don’t, they’ll win the Ivy League anyway.

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Why Alex Rosenberg’s injury is good for Columbia’s future … and bad for his own

The Columbia Spectator reported earlier today that 2013-14 first-team All-Ivy forward Alex Rosenberg has withdrawn from school and will not compete on the men’s basketball team in 2014-15.

Rosenberg fractured his foot in practice on Oct. 24 and was expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks, meaning he was likely to miss Columbia’s nonconference slate altogether. Instead, he chose to withdraw from the school because the Ivy League does not permit medical redshirts. Ivy athletes are tasked with using their four years of eligibility in their first four years as enrolled full-time students. Fifth-year waivers do exist for Ivy athletes, but they are rare since they require athletes who apply for the waiver to prove that a fifth year of eligibility is triggered by academic and career concerns rather than athletic endeavors.

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Columbia Roster Preview – 2014-15 Edition

With Alex Rosenberg out indefinitely with a foot fracture, Columbia’s Ivy outlook is very much in question.On the bright side, what isn’t in question is that Columbia boasts one of the most explosive and deepest backcourts in the league. Everything about Maodo Lo is bona fide, and there’s no reason he can’t build on his breakout performance last season, when he did a little bit of everything for the Lions. Coach Kyle Smith would be wise to stop trying to go big, though. Last season, he tried pairing Luke Petrasek and Cory Osetkowski together in the frontcourt to little avail before going back to a smaller lineup embracing the guard-friendly makeup of this roster. Rosenberg or no Rosenberg, guard play will determine Columbia’s fate in 2014-15.

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