Sports

Without King ’17, men’s basketball ends Empire State trip empty-handed

Close games turn to blowouts late as Bruno cannot hang in the clutch, falling to Cornell, Columbia

By
Sports Staff Writer
Monday, February 2, 2015

Despite hanging close late in the second half with two Ivy League opponents, the men’s basketball team was swept this weekend, falling to Cornell 57-49 and to Columbia 86-65 after a road trip to New York.

The losses continue a dismal skid to open conference play for the Bears (9-12, 0-4 Ivy), who find themselves winless and alone at the bottom of the Ivy standings.

“It was definitely a challenging weekend, and we weren’t good down the stretch,” said co-captain Cedric Kuakumensah ’16. “We have to play with more sense of urgency … that’s something we’ll have to work on.”

 

Friday: Cornell 57, Brown 49

To call Friday’s battle in Ithaca a defensive game would be a nice way of putting it, but neither offense put up much of a fight. Attacks by both the Big Red (10-10, 2-2) and Bruno sputtered throughout the game, with each shooting below 38 percent from the floor and combining to go 5-of-34 from three-point range.

Bruno’s offense looked lost in the wake of leading scorer Leland King’s ’17 departure from the team due to personal reasons. Tavon Blackmon ’17 and Steven Spieth ’17 each scored eight points before intermission to help the Bears to a slim 27-24 halftime lead. But the team made just five field goals in the second half — two treys by J.R. Hobbie ’17 — and ended with fewer than 50 points for just the second time this year.

“They did a good job with ball pressure,” Blackmon said of the Cornell defense. “But more so, I think we just made a lot of little mistakes that … are hurting us at the end.”

The Big Red mirrored Bruno’s offensive struggles for much of the game, and the score stayed so close that neither team led by more than four points in the second half until under a minute remaining, when Cornell pushed the lead with free throws. The Big Red’s offense struggled with the Bears’ denial of senior Shonn Miller. The forward leads the Ivy League in points and rebounds but was a relative non-factor with Rafael Maia ’15 guarding him Friday, scoring just eight points and grabbing three rebounds.

Maia “did a great job” guarding Miller, Kuakumensah said. “We tried to control them in the half court  because they are a pretty fast-paced team.”

But when Miller struggled, his classmate Galal Cancer picked up the slack. Bruno led 49-47 with three minutes to play before Cancer, who had just five points at that time, took over the game. The guard pulled down a rebound, drew a foul and hit two free throws to tie the game.

The next time down the floor, Cancer corralled an offensive board, drew a foul and hit two more free throws to give his team a lead. Finally, Cancer put the nail in the coffin by stripping Maia and finishing with a breakaway layup on the other end. His six straight points turned a Bruno lead into what proved to be an insurmountable Cornell lead.

Blackmon led the Bears with 14 points and is turning into more of a scoring factor at point guard, but the sophomore went just 1-of-7 from the floor in the second half. Spieth streaked to eight first-half points before being shut out after the midpoint.

 

Saturday: Columbia 86, Brown 65

With just over six minutes remaining, Bruno trailed 64-63, but a backbreaking 22-2 Columbia (10-8, 2-2) run turned what had been a close game into an apparent blowout.

“They were making a lot of shots down the stretch, and we weren’t,” Kuakumensah said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Bruno turned the page offensively before its Saturday bout in the Big Apple, coming out with a much more effective attack and leading by as much as seven points after three-pointers by Kuakumensah and Hobbie were made midway through the first half.

But the Lions shot the lights out from beyond the arc, sinking nine first-half threes and shooting 45 percent from three for the game. The long range shooting lifted the Lions to a 39-35 edge in the high-scoring first half.

Another Hobbie trey knotted the game at 50 with 15 minutes to play, but Columbia led the rest of the way. After Spieth made two free throws to cut the lead to one with just under seven minutes remaining, two threes, two layups and 12-of-14 free throws buried the Bears down the stretch.

For the second night in a row, one of the league’s top scorers was outdone by a teammate in a win over Brown. This time, Columbia first-year Kyle Castlin had a career night with 21 points and nine rebounds, complimenting 15 points from his backcourt partner Maodo Lo, the Ivy League’s second-leading scorer.

Until the final six minutes, Bruno’s offense displayed the balance it can achieve when at its best. All five starters finished in double digits, and the team shot 49 percent from the floor before falling apart late. Blackmon and Kuakumensah were offensive leaders, each scoring 13 points while Blackmon dished out seven assists and Kuakumensah added 11 boards.

“We just have to keep working,” as the team heads into a week of practice before Friday’s showdown with Harvard (13-5, 3-1), Kuakumensah said. “It’s a long season and nobody has lost sight of that.”

After the Yale (15-6, 4-0) loss last week and the two defeats this week, an emerging theme for the team is falling apart late in the second half after first half leads. Looking to buck the trend, the Bears will have a doubleheader with Harvard and Dartmouth (8-10, 1-3) at home this weekend.

  • Andy Padden

    What happened with Leland King? Did he leave school? If not, why did he leave the team?