Sports

Men’s basketball takes down Cornell and Columbia at home

Bruno moves into second place in the Ivy League with wins, will play for first place Friday

By
Sports Staff Writer
Monday, February 3, 2014

Rafael Maia ’15 lines up for a free throw Saturday night. The forward led the Bears with 18 points and 12 rebounds against Columbia.

The men’s basketball team went unbeaten at home over the weekend, defeating Cornell 78-66 before topping Columbia 64-56. The Bears are now in position to claim first place in the Ivy League with a win Friday against Harvard.

 

Brown 78, Cornell 66

The Bears (11-7, 3-1 Ivy) exploded out of the gate against the Big Red (1-17, 0-4), jumping ahead to a 19-4 lead in the first nine minutes of play. Undeterred, Cornell responded with an 11-0 run and managed to wrangle a 33-30 advantage by halftime. Yet the Bears regained momentum in the second half with a three-point shooting assault — the squad shot 6-of-11 from long distance in the period — to reclaim the lead and earn a 78-66 victory.

“The first five minutes of the game we came out playing really hard,” said  guard Steven Spieth ’17. “We got up 19-4 and we maybe let up when we shouldn’t have, which is something we can’t do in league play. … We just need to put the pedal to the metal and put it away as soon as we can.”

Bruno saw stellar performances from Spieth and fellow first-year Norman Hobbie ’17, each of whom finished with 18 points.

Hobbie’s points came exclusively from beyond the arc, where he shot 6-of-9 on the night.

“They were so consumed with our size inside that that opened up some perimeter shots,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04.

Spieth’s 18 points, a career best, came on a near-perfect shooting display. The young forward connected on 5-of-5 from the field and 8-of-9 from the charity stripe.

Though he had a standout performance, Spieth stressed that the focus remained on securing victory for the team.

“We have better scorers than me on this team … and it’s really important to get them going early,” Spieth said. “At the end of the day, it’s about getting the win, and it doesn’t really matter who has the most points.”

Despite Cornell’s struggles this season — the Big Red entered the matchup ranked last in the Ivy League — the program has recently given Brown considerable trouble. Prior to Bruno’s 84-65 victory in Ithaca late last season, the Big Red had won the previous 13 showdowns against the Bears. Friday’s win was the first home victory for Bruno over Cornell since Martin’s playing days.

“Cornell had dominated us recently, so it was good to get that one,” Martin said.

But the Bears still had to survive an unexpectedly tough battle against the struggling Cornell squad.

“We underestimated them a little bit,” Hobbie said. “They’re a lot better than their record shows.”

 

Brown 64, Columbia 56

Saturday’s showdown against the Lions (13-8, 2-2) proved to be a more balanced matchup.  Neither team managed to claim more than a five-point lead in the opening half, and the Bears went into the locker room with a slim 28-26 advantage.

The two teams continued to trade baskets for much of the second half. In the final 10 minutes of play, with both teams in foul trouble, the game came down to free throw shooting. Columbia’s only points in the final 10 minutes of play came from the charity stripe, and stingy defense from the Bears down the stretch allowed them to clinch the eight-point victory.

Forward Rafael Maia ’15 delivered an impressive performance, claiming his fourth double-double of the season with 18 points and 12 rebounds. The big man even connected on two three-pointers.

“We were ready from the start,” Maia said. “We were very focused mentally to win this game, especially on the defensive end of the court. We were able to do our job and stick to our principles to get this win.”

Maia has been forced to contend with an injured shoulder throughout the season, restricting him from practicing three days every week. Martin said he was impressed with his forward’s perseverance given the circumstances.

“Tonight was the first time he had to play back-to-back” nights, Martin said. “He was flying all over the floor tonight for loose balls and offensive rebounds. … That was a pretty impressive performance.”

Forward Cedric Kuakumensah ’16 was the team’s second-leading scorer with 13 points.

With the win over the Lions, the Bears are now tied with Yale for second place in the Ivy League behind an undefeated Harvard squad. Bruno heads north this weekend to take on the Crimson and Dartmouth.

“We’re well aware of the team they are,” Martin said of the matchup against the Crimson. “It’s great for our guys to have that type of opportunity, and with opportunity comes responsibility. We’ve got to prepare ourselves.”