Sunday, January 31, 2010
Postmortem on Harvard's loss to Cornell (January 30, 2010)
Okay, so right after I wrote about Harvard's rise and a budding rivalry with Cornell, Harvard walks into Cornell and gets creamed 86-50. Cornell, a good shooting team, had no trouble shooting well against the Harvard defense (45.5% from the field and 12 for 27 from 3-point range), and did a fine job of avoiding turnovers (only 8) while Harvard was their usual turnover-prone selves (25), and it bit them because a) Cornell's got a pretty good defense themselves, b) Harvard could not force turnovers from Cornell, plus c) the Big Red managed an impressive 14 offensive rebounds, providing second chances galore during the relatively few times they didn't put the ball in the net the first time. Cornell managed 66 shots from the field while Harvard managed a paltry 36.
All this aside, Harvard was down by a relatively competitive 14 points at halftime, then pulled within 10 with under 13 minutes left, but Cornell shut them down over a 9 minute stretch and ran over them the rest of the way.
Harvard leader Jeremy Lin did manage a strong 19 point effort but matched a season high with 8 turnovers. Point guard Oliver McNally did not manage a single assist for the first time this season. Harvard wasn't dominated badly on the boards, losing that battle 30 to 27, nor did they run into particularly bad foul trouble (20 fouls to Cornell's 19, and only three players had 4 fouls).
But Harvard's bread and butter is their defense, and Cornell walked right over it. All five Cornell starters finished with double figure scoring. The starters shot a combined 25 of 47 from the field: Leading scorer Ryan Wittman actually posted the lowest scoring total among the Cornell starters with 11. Center Jeff Foote led the Big Red with 16, and 9 rebounds.
Basically, Harvard just had a bad day. Teams can have bad days and get lucky with a less than stellar performance from the other side, but being keyed on the game, Cornell seized advantage and finished with an emphatic rout. The odds were on Cornell to win the game anyway, being at home, and no matter how lopsided the score was, it's just one loss. Harvard gets another chance at Cornell next month, this time at home, and if that matchup happened today it would be a 50/50 shot. Unless it's a playoff or tournament game, one game doesn't make a season, and Harvard's got plenty of chances to put this loss behind them before season's end.