It’s the East Hill vs. the South Hill. Better than Ezra vs. Agent Double 0 Zero. The Commons vs. Collegetown. Drew I. Goodman vs. Dick Schaap ’55. Ithaca College vs. Cornell.
They are only five miles apart and yet the Bombers and the Red have never stepped on the same court in 103 years of men’s basketball. Tonight at 7:00 p.m., in Newman Arena, the wait is over and a new rivalry will be born.
“We need something to fire up college basketball fans in this area,” Cornell head coach Steve Donahue said. “I think this is a great way to create interest and see both programs. I think this is something both communities will rally around. I’d love to see this building packed, and I’d love to see the area real excited about college basketball.”
But deeper than a simple rivalry stands the fact that the game will be played as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer basketball series, a program in which all ticket sales will be given to the American Cancer Society.
“I don’t think anyone on this earth hasn’t been affected directly or indirectly by cancer,” Donahue poignantly noted, a fact that Ithaca College coach Jim Mullins reiterated.
“It’s a no-lose situation for us. The American Cancer Society is a great cause,” he said.
The Cornell community was touched by cancer two years ago when then head coach Scott Thompson was diagnosed with colon cancer.
He underwent treatment and is now improving in health.
The Coaches vs. Cancer program was setup by then-Missouri men’s
basketball coach Norm Stewart, who had been diagnosed with colon cancer. He popularized the idea to use high-profile college basketball to raise money for cancer research and related programs. His plan was carried on by Roy Williams of Kansas and Jim Boheim of Syracuse and soon spread around the
Both Donahue and Mullins were excited about playing for the American Cancer
Society as well as for the prospect of finally playing their cross-town
brethren. Cornell annualy schedules a division III team while Ithaca College schedules a Division I team.
“I want to challenge my guys and do everything I can to play the
highest level of competition,” Donahue said. “I’m a Division III athlete
myself and I enjoyed the opportunity to play Division I teams. At the same time, I want my guys to respect them. I want them to understand that there are other, very good basketball programs out there.
“I would love it to be what we envisioned: a great success. Jim and I would be foolish not to consider doing it on an annual basis. I hope people rally
around it and enjoy it, and I’m all for it,” he continued.
Both teams are coming off of losing streaks as the Red has dropped
its first five and the Bombers, its last two. But this game favors Cornell as Ithaca College holds no players over 6-6.
Asked if he would take advantage of this, Donahue replied,
“There’s always a fine line: you try to do what you do well. We need to get more of a low post presence. But we’re going to try to play as well as we can and worry about what we’re doing and understand that we have an advantage there and try to take advantage of that if we can.”
The team lost Chris Vandenberg, its leading frontcourt threat, for 4-6 weeks due to a knee injury and will look to 6-9 junior Gabler and 6-8 freshman Eric Taylor to fill his shoes.
Several freshman have contribute big minutes for the Red, including Cody Toppert, who leads the team in rebounding and is second in
scoring, and A.J. Castro, who leads the team in 3-point percentage.
Ithaca College returns four starters and recently won the Eastern
Connecticut State Tipoff. Sophomore forward Tyler Schultz was named tournament MVP and leads the team in points and rebounds. He is shooting an incredible 70% from the field.
“[This game] petrifies me,” Donahue assured. “We can’t afford to look past anybody and anyone in this country can beat us. It’s a good test for my team. [It’s] another situation where I put young guys and they have to be mature enough to know that if we play well, we have an opportunity to win. But if we lose, we deserve to lose.”
Archived article by Sumeet Sarin