January 12, 2009
DEFENDING IVY LEAGUE CHAMPS, CORNELL, BEAT BULLDOGS, 69-46, AT THE CHACE CENTER
SMITHFIELD, R.I. - A resilient Bryant Bulldog squad could not keep up with the hot first half outside shooting of Cornell, as they fell, 69-46, at the Chace Center Monday night.
The Bulldogs (2-14) had a tough time slowing down one of the best three-point shooting attacks in the country in the first half, as Cornell (10-6) shot 9-14 from the outside to take a, 43-18, lead into the halftime break. The Big Red came into the game ranked fifth in the nation in team three-point percentage at 41%.
Bryant hung around through the first media timeout, as a Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine / Winthrop) knocked-down a pull-up jumper to tie that game at 9-9 with 14:52 to go in the half. Leclerc finished with five points in the half.
Cornell, an NCAA tournament team a year ago, then went on an 11-0 run and scored 34 of the final 43 points of the half, holding Bryant to 26.3 percent shooting in the frame to take control before the end of the half. Geoff Reeves, who came into the game shooting almost 47 percent from beyond the arc, went three-for-three, including scoring 12 of the first 17 Big Red points. Reeves finished the half with 12, while reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Louis Dale hit for nine on three three's. Dale was impressive, finishing with 16 points and five assists.
Ryan Wittman, the nation's 22nd leading scorer averaging 20.5 per game coming into the contest, had eight at the break. Wittman came alive in the second, finishing with a game-high 18 points.
Nick Pontes (New Bedford, Mass. / New Bedford) led the way for Bryant with seven points, but the Bulldogs had trouble getting it going offensively, as they were held without a three in the first half for the first time this season. Bryant did shoot a season-high 12 free-throws in the first 20 minutes, converting on eight. Pontes finished with a team-high 13, registering double-figures for his fifth-straight game.
The Bulldogs continued to show themselves to be a resilient second half team, going on a 6-0 run midway through the half to cut a 27-point Cornell lead to 21 with 9:15 to go following a Ryan McLean (Plymouth, Mass. / Plymouth North) reverse lay-in. The run also included a jumper from Cecil Gresham (Bloomfield, Conn. / Bloomfield) who fouled out with under seven minutes to play, finishing with 11 points.
Bryant went on to outscore the Big Red 28-26 in the second half, shooting 42.9 percent from the field. A smoother offensive half was helped by the point guard play of Chris Birrell (Scituate, R.I. / Scituate) who finished with four assists and only one turnover in 29 minutes. Birrell has committed just one turnover in his last 64 minutes of action.
Cornell also cooled off in the second half, hitting just 2-of-8 from the outside while shooting 39.1 percent from the floor.
Bryant begins plays the second game of a three-game home-stand on Wednesday night when they take on last year's NEC Tournament finalist Sacred Heart (7 p.m.).