MOUNT VERNON — “The System” made its way into Cornell College’s Multi-Sport Center last night, and worked its usual magic.
Grinnell College (11-2, 6-2 MWC) used its high-octane, full-court pressure style of play to frustrate and run past the Rams (6-7, 3-5), 118-97.
“It’s very difficult, and it’s something every coach that plays them battles,” said Cornell Coach Chad Murray, when asked how he prepared for the run-and-gun game. “You cannot simulate what they do in a practice situation. … It’s basically a whole new system of play that you need to do to counteract what they do.”
The Pioneers used their system of substituting players in shifts — all five players at a time — every 30 seconds or so of game play. That allowed Grinnell to sprint up and down the court, and implement full-court pressure that forced 23 Cornell turnovers.
Grinnell made headlines with an NCAA-record 138 points from guard Jack Taylor (19 points on 4 of 12 shooting in just 18 minutes last night) on Nov. 20, 2012 and an NCAA-record 37 assists from Patrick Maher (22 points, 12 assists last night) earlier this season. Against the right opponent and on the right night, that’s what “The System” can produce.
Cornell was able to counteract some of that last night, and fought back from a 20-point deficit to cut the lead to six at 79-73 with 12:27 left by applying full-court pressure of their own.
“That’s how we play,” said Grinnell Coach David M. Arseneault. “We knew it was going to be a game of runs because Cornell has good offensive talent. They’re very quick. It’s just a matter of doing what you can so runs can’t get extended, and I think we did a pretty good job that way.”
Grinnell coaches and players both said after the game that they almost look forward to seeing opposing teams try to guard full-court. Chances are, they said, their opponents are going to run out of gas pretty quickly.
“We really want teams to press us, because then we can get the ball up the floor and get a 3(-pointer) off quicker than we would against a set defense,” said forward Aaron Levin, who scored 33 points on 13 of 19 shooting.
The Pioneers’ eventually pulled away with that relentless offensive effort, and left the Rams with nothing else to do besides shrug their shoulders and move on.
“We didn’t have enough tonight. They made some big baskets in the second half to keep us at bay,” Murray said. “When we did cut it to (six), Levin hit a big three in the corner that put it back to nine, and that’s deflating. When you’re constantly fighting from behind and they make a basket, or they make a key play, it’s hard to rebound. You’re just not going to be able to do it every time.”