Thursday, December 29, 2011

Forty Five Minutes in a Sea of Red (Recap of Cornell vs. Stony Brook)

If red is your favorite color, then last night's Cornell vs. Stony Brook contest was the game for you.  You had the Big Red taking on the Seawolves, whose motto on their tickets is "Get Your Red On, It's What We Do".  Needless to say, the crowd was dressed for one of the preferred colors of the holiday season.

The last time I saw Cornell was at Madison Square Garden in December of 2009. They had just won the Holiday Invitational, defeating St John's, who of course are the Red Storm, thus we are continuing with the red motif.  The Big Red would eventually make the Sweet Sixteen that 2009-10 season, which actually wasn't that much of a surprise to me, having seen them play.

Since then, Steve Donahue parlayed that Sweet Sixteen and the two previous seasons' NCAA Tournament bids into a head coaching position at Boston College.  Meanwhile after Donahue left and Louis Dale, Ryan Wittman and Jeff Foote all graduated, Cornell struggled to a 10-18 record last season.  Of the five players that remain from that Sweet Sixteen team, only Chris Wroblewski, a starter that season, saw significant minutes in 2009-10.  The Big Red entered last night's contest at 4-6.

The last time I saw Stony Brook, they were putting a whipping on FDU, beating the Knights 70-46.  It was their last win going into last night.  Still, the Seawolves had another good crowd fill Pritchard Gym last evening despite school not being in session due to the holiday break.  They also had a lively and talented pep band that during pre-game warmups chanted out the names of the Stony Brook players similar to the Yankee Stadium Bleacher Creatures.

But unlike the FDU game,  there was no Mick Foley in attendance last night.  Perhaps he had a date with Mr. Socko.  Also, I can't confirm whether or not James or Marilyn Simons were in attendance last night, though they certainly could afford season tickets.

The game started off with both teams struggling to put the ball in the basket.  Similar to their game against FDU,  Steve Pikiell's Stony Brook team played excellent man to man defense on Cornell.  The Big Red often put up their shots with little time left on the shot clock.   Meanwhile Stony Brook only attempted three shots in the first nearly five minutes and they scored all their points on free throws by Tommy Brenton.  With a little more than fifteen minutes left in the first half, the score was tied at 3-3.

Finally, the Seawolves briefly broke the scoring drought on a layup by Al Rapier to go up 5-3.  Baskets were still hard to come by in the first ten minutes.  With Stony Brook hitting the occasional three, the Seawolves starting inching out their lead, going up 14-7 with less than nine minutes left in the first half.   However, it seemed there was a good chance that neither Stony Brook or Cornell would break twenty points by halftime.

But then Bryan Dougher caught fire for the Seawolves.  He preceded to score eight straight points which was part of a 19-2 Stony Brook run over the span of eight minutes.  The Seawolves were now up 27-9 with less than five minutes left in the first half.  After the media timeout, Cornell managed to finally hit some shots, scoring more points in four minutes and twenty three seconds, eleven, then they did in the beginning fifteen plus minutes of the game, nine.  They cut what once was a twenty point lead down to fifteen as Stony Brook went into the half up fifteen, 35-20.

Stony Brook not only has a talented band, but also a very talented mascot in Wolfie.  Now Wolfie looks like a regular wolf, not a seawolf (whatever that looks like), and he is very involved in all aspects of the game.  First and foremost, he leads the team cheers and is the lead distraction when the opponent shoots free throws.  Second, he leads the late second half media timeout kids dance to "Cotton Eyed Joe".  Wolfie also has his own Twitter account, @WolfieSeawolf.  He is so talented that he was twittering game updates while refereeing a faculty staff halftime game at the same time.  Wolfie would become a huge factor late in the second half.

Whatever coach Bill Courtney said to his players at halftime worked, because I saw a different Cornell team in the second half.  They came out in a half court trap defense which threw Stony Brook off their game as they had eleven turnovers in the second half.  Now it was the Seawolves who were struggling to score on offense.  They would only score sixteen points over the next twenty minutes.

On offense, the Big Red looked much more alive, working the ball around for open looks.  Combine that with their successful half court trap and as a result, Cornell started slowly cutting into Stony Brook's lead and briefly had it down to single digits.  Still with six and a half minutes remaining in the game, the Seawolves were still up eleven, 49-38.

But that's when Cornell made their first run of the game.  Over the next five plus minutes, the Big Red outscored the Seawolves 13-0.  This was due in large part to a) Stony Brook committing five turnovers in this span, b) The Seawolves taking too much time off the clock on several of their possessions late in the game and c) Drew Ferry, who buried three shots from beyond the arc, the last of which put Cornell up 51-49 with 1:18 left in the game.

The Big Red might have had a bigger lead had it not been for Wolfie.  During the second half of the FDU game, Wolfie pulled out a "Shake Weight" and used that as a distraction when the Knights shot a couple of free throws late in the game.  Wolfie pulled the "Shake Weight" out again last night.  Sure enough, the distraction worked, as Cornell missed three free throws in a row due to Stony Brook's industrious mascot.

Still, the Seawolves needed to tie a game where they had been up by twenty points at one time. And Stony Brook got that on a layup by Ron Bracey with fifty seven seconds left.   The Big Red now had a chance to win the game, but Ferry missed an open three pointer.  Cornell got the rebound and worked down the clock for the final shot.  But Galal Cancer missed a jumper and we headed for overtime tied at 51.

In the overtime, it came down to mostly a free throw shooting contest.  The Seawolves scored nine of their fifteen overtime points from the charity stripe. Tommy Brenton had seven points during the extra period, five from the line.  The other two came on a breakaway dunk that ended the game as Stony Brook defeated Cornell 68-59.

Dougher and Bracey each had sixteen points to lead the Seawolves.  Brenton added twelve points and Dave Coley had ten points.  Ferry led the Big Red with fifteen points and Shonn Miller added ten points.  The big difference came at the line.  Stony Brook was 19 of 28 from the charity stripe while Cornell was only 8 of 17.  Give Wolfie a big assist on that statistic.

The Seawolves' next home game is Friday as they take on the Raiders of Colgate.  It just so happens that Colgate's road uniform color is maroon, which is of course an off shoot of red.  Hey, it is the preferred color of choice this holiday season.  Guess I will have to find something in red to wear for Friday night's game.

Just remember to bring the red "Shake Weight", okay Wolfie?


  1. Thanks for the article. Go Seawolves. Correction: Stony Brook plays Rider next, not colgate

  2. Yeah, I have no idea why I thought Colgate. And again, last night, I still thought it was Colgate. Oh well.