RTC Live: Cornell @ AlbanyPosted by rtmsf on November 12th, 2010
Game #4. RTC Live visits another new school tonight, enjoying the hospitality of upstate New York in a game between two regional rivals looking for answers.
Fresh off its third consecutive Ivy League conference title and a scintillating Sweet 16 run in last year’s March Madness tournament, Cornell’s Big Red takes a trip to the Capital Region to take on UAlbany’s Great Danes. Cornell welcomes new head coach Bill Courtney to the sidelines after the departure of Steve Donahue, the architect of much of Big Red’s recent success, who has since left to fill a vacancy at Boston College. Coach Courtney has his work cut out for him in trying to replicate Big Red’s 29 wins from last year. On the other sideline, UAlbany coach Will Brown hopes to rebound from a dismal 7-25 campaign, the worst season of his career to date. To do so, he will turn to the talents of sophomores Blake Metcalf and Logan Aronholt, who he named captains back in October. The America East Conference’s preseason poll slated the Great Danes to finish eighth in the conference, just ahead of UMBC, so Coach Brown faces a long road ahead of him in rebuilding the UAlbany brand to its 2006 form, which saw the Great Danes earn a trip to the NCAA tournament and a compelling near-upset of No. 1 seed UConn.
[Ed. note – Albany does not allow live-blogging, so here is our full recap of this game from our reporter on the scene. Sorry about the mishap.]
“Cornell prevails over Albany in season opener” by Tae Andrews
New coach, fresh faces, same result. Balanced scoring, timely three pointers and Big Red’s brand of cerebral basketball combined to make new coach Bill Courtney a winner in his inaugural contest as Cornell prevailed over Albany, 65-61. Max Groebe paced Cornell with 15 points, leading four Big Red players in double digits. In the post, senior forward Aaron Osgood combined a nifty slew of post moves with some blue collar hustle play to contribute 14 points and five rebounds.
The Great Danes used stingy defense in the early going to harangue Cornell into 12-for-30 shooting in the first half, but in the end, the Big Red’s balance and depth proved too much to overcome, despite the best efforts of the Great Danes and a boisterous crowd at UAlbany’s SEFCU Arena. On a night where Cornell combined to shoot just 10 for 28 from beyond the arc, Big Red didn’t display the hot hands that propelled it to a Sweet Sixteen run a year ago, but Cornell made enough long balls when it needed them to put down the Great Danes, who look much improved coming off a disastrous 7-25 campaign a year ago.
Coach Courtney stated the obvious after the game. “Any time you can win on the road, it’s a good thing,” he said. UAlbany used swarming defense and physical play to stake a 37-35 lead after one half of play, but a key injury towards the end of the first half sorely impacted Albany’s prospects for victory. Albany point guard Mike Black went down hard after a drive to the hoop with 5:35 remaining in the first half. Black was called for a charging foul, then lay writhing on the floor in agony, clutching his left ankle, before being helped off the court. With Black out with a dreaded high ankle sprain, Jacob Iati and Ralph Watts alternated shifts manning the point for the Great Danes. Black had chipped in ten points on 3-of-4 shooting before going down to injury.
“They shot the ball well, hats off to [them],” Albany coach Will Brown said after the game, “but if Mike Black doesn’t go down I like our chances. I’m not going to take anything away from Cornell. I felt going into the game Mike Black was going to be the best player in the game… For our team, he’s the engine.” Brown went on to say that Black’s status is day to day, and he didn’t rule out a comeback for Monday’s game against American.
Big Red point guard Chris Wroblewski also missed the game with a sprained right ankle. Wroblewski is the lone returning starter from last year’s squad, which went 29-5 and won the Ivy League title before succumbing to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. In a game marked by the absence of starting point guards, Cornell’s role players ended up making the difference. Cornell’s offensive attack used its trademark passing time after time to swing the ball to open shooters for clear looks from long range. Andrew Ferry and Johnathan Gray were only too happy to oblige, combining to shoot 7-for-18 from downtown.
Gray, just a year removed from a stint as the Cornell team’s basketball manager, made the most of his time on the court, contributing twelve points and two rebounds. Gray found the range from deep time after time, connecting on four of six three pointers to lead Big Red. Gray also made a variety of hustle plays all over the court, leading his coach to describe his play as being similar to a “Tazmanian Devil.”
On the other sideline, Albany’s fans caught a glimpse of the program’s past, present and future in the performances of guards Tim Ambrose and Logan Aronholt. Ambrose, who has the words “BAM” and “BAM” tattooed on the back of both of his triceps, provided clutch bucket after clutch bucket, scoring on a crafty array of pull-up bank shots, long jumpers and forays towards the basket. Aronholt, who was named a captain in October, contributed 13 points on 6-16 shooting to add to the one-two scoring punch the Great Danes needed to remain in the game. Ambrose, a captain on last year’s squad and as one of two seniors on the team, the unit’s grizzled veteran, poured in 20 points on 8-12 shooting.
Two years removed from an America East Conference championship, UAlbany suffered through a 7-25 campaign last year, but has plenty of positives in the early going this season despite the injury the Mike Black. UAlbany’s tough defense made this one a tense, hard-fought contest before Cornell decided the outcome in the final minute.
Cornell’s signature shot — the three ball — kept Big Red in the game.
Prior to the game, “Growl Towels” were draped over the seats in preparation for the showdown with Cornell… Area standout Galal Cancer, rated a two-star recruit by Scout.com and given a 75 rating by ESPN Insiders, committed to Cornell earlier this year. Cancer currently plays point guard for Christian Brothers Academy in Albany, where he led CBA to the 2010 New York State AA Championship, the first in school history. Cancer’s final decision came down to choosing between Cornell and Albany, and he said the opportunity to attend an Ivy League school ultimately made the decision for him. “I just thought about college and when I’d be done playing basketball, he said. “I felt that Cornell would present me with more opportunities with the alumni connection they have.” … In the end, a sizeable contingent of Cornell fans in attendance roared following the Big Red victory.