The beginning of the end for Cornell

In the midst of a six game losing streak, Cornell headed to Penn and Princeton for its final road trip of the season.  The Big Red were hoping to get back in the win column, surprise a top-tier team and escape the league basement.  Unfortunately, the team finished the weekend with two losses, an eight-game losing streak and sole possession of last place.

Most of the information about this past weekend was covered well by Mike Tony in his Friday roundupSaturday recap and Ivy Power Rankings.

Just to add a small amount to those items:

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A lost weekend, a lost season for Cornell?

The last several weekends have been difficult for the Cornell basketball program.  Although losses to Princeton and Yale were expected, it was hoped that there would be more competition against the top tier, along with one or two victories against Brown and Penn.  Unfortunately, the Tigers and Bulldogs together averaged 30-point wins, while the Bears and Quakers were able to withstand Cornell’s pressure and emerged victorious.  In the midst of a four-game losing streak, it was thought that the Ithaca arrival of Dartmouth and Harvard, two teams that were defeated on the road by the Big Red a few weeks ago, would provide the opportunity for Cornell to get back in the win column.

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Stuck in the middle with Cornell

Yes I’m stuck in the middle with you,
And I’m wondering what it is I should do,
It’s so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I’m all over the place,
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you

-Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan, “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel (1972)

Heading into this weekend, Cornell looked to build upon its road sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth to solidify its hold onto fourth place in the Ivy League.  After being thoroughly dismantled by first-place Yale, Cornell ended its four-game road trip at 2-2 and finds itself in a tie for fifth place at 2-4 (9-11 overall).  After week four of the conference schedule, the league appears to be divided into several groups.  While Yale, Princeton and Columbia are at the top, Harvard and Dartmouth find themselves clustered at the bottom. The Big Red are presently stuck in the middle with Penn and Brown.

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Cornell math: W= P + D squared (Wins = Points + Defense x Depth)

On Saturday, Cornell’s Board of Trustees held a controversial vote to establish a new College of Business by merging its School of Hotel Administration, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Johnson Graduate School of Management.  Many students, alumni and faculty are upset at the Board and new President Elizabeth Garrett for pushing this College through without any input from the greater Cornell community.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, President Garrett will be meeting with students and faculty to discuss this important development.  Given how well the Big Red men’s basketball team performed this weekend, the President may want to quickly befriend Matt Morgan and have him stand beside her.

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A Big Red refresher

A longtime friend of IHO, Rob Browne has agreed to join the site as a contributor focused on Cornell, a team poised to pull off a key upset or two during Ivy play. Here’s Rob’s in-depth look at the state of the Big Red:

Although picked last in the preseason Ivy League poll and having an initial KenPom raking of 311, Cornell has started the season 7-9 (0-2 Ivy) and finds itself with a current ranking of 232.  While its most lopsided victory was against Division III Penn State Harrisburg, the Big Red scored decisive victories at home against Binghamton (No. 333) and Lafayette (No. 321).  They had several close wins against Howard, (No. 269), Colgate (No. 209), St. Peter’s (No. 178) and Siena ( No. 109).

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Ivy Saturday roundup

Columbia 79, Cornell 68

Cornell’s gameplan was sound: Don’t sag in too much responding to Columbia interior attacks and try to disrupt the Lions with physicality on the perimeter. Cornell’s gameplan didn’t matter.

Columbia shot 13-for-24 (54.2 percent) from beyond the arc to pull away in the second half. A trio of Lions – Luke Petrasek, Maodo Lo and C.J. Davis – hit at least three treys, enough to make up for several bunnies missed inside and playing at a faster pace than coach Kyle Smith probably wanted. Cornell missed Robert Hatter for the second game in this series but benefited from freshman guard Matt Morgan’s 26 points on 9-for-23 shooting. For more on the game, read our Ian Wenik’s instant analysis.

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Columbia gets back on track with treys, sweeps Cornell

This time around, the biggest source of drama in Columbia’s rematch with Cornell was the open question of how the Lions would be able to safely return to Manhattan following a 79-68 victory. The three-point shooting of Columbia (13-6, 2-0 Ivy) kept Cornell (7-9, 0-2) safely at arm’s length throughout the second half.

Turning point: This game was close at halftime, as Columbia only held a 36-33 lead heading into the break. In the second half, though, the Lions took advantage of their biggest strength to open up a big lead they wouldn’t give up.

Luke Petrasek, Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg all hit three-pointers in the first 3:27 of the second half, pushing the Lions’ lead to 11 points. Cornell never seriously threatened after that burst.

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Ivy Saturday roundup

Yale 77, Brown 68

As it did last season, Brown gave Yale a scare in New Haven, but not a loss.

Late free throws by Makai Mason and Jack Montague iced the game for the Elis, and Mason led Yale with 20 points in 32 minutes. Brown overcame an early 21-4 deficit to cut Yale’s lead to 37-31 at halftime. Cedric Kuakumensah, Tavon Blackmon and JR Hobbie combined for 50 of Brown’s 68 points and 15 of its 20 field goals. Brown and Yale combined for 49 fouls and 36 turnovers in what turned out to be a sloppy game.

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Columbia holds off Cornell, 74-70

Columbia opened up Ivy play the best way it possibly could have — by closing out a tough opponent in a close game. Cornell fought back from an 11-point deficit in the final four minutes, but the Lions made the free throws they needed to and held on, 74-70.

Turning point: After Matt Morgan hit a three-pointer from the right wing to draw Cornell within two, 71-69, with 16.2 seconds remaining, the Big Red knew they needed to rely on their press to have a realistic shot at winning.

They nearly got one.

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