Heading into its final weekend of the season, the men’s basketball team has nothing to lose in the Ivy League standings. With a solid hold on third place, the only direction for the Red to move is up when it welcomes Harvard and Dartmouth to Newman Arena. With a lot of help — in the form of three straight losses by Penn and a Princeton victory over Yale — it could even earn a share of the Ivy League title.
[img_assist|nid=21796|title=Buckets.|desc=Senior tri-captain Andrew Naeve (42) throws down a dunk during Cornell’s 83-71 loss to Penn on Feb. 17. 17.|link=node|align=left|width=73|height=100]
“Most important is that we win our Friday and Saturday games,” head coach Steve Donahue said. “Then we can sit back and see what happens. If second place or a chance to tie for first is still there then that’s great, but the only thing we can do is focus on our games [this weekend] and let the chips fall where they may.”
On Friday, the Red (15-11, 8-4 Ivy) will take on a Harvard squad (11-15, 4-8) that, until last Saturday’s victory over Princeton, had lost five in a row. Despite the Crimson’s recent record, Cornell remembers the last time the two got together, when Harvard beat the Red, 65-64, on a last-second bucket by Evan Harris.
“Any time you lose to somebody, you have motivation to correct that,” Donahue said. “Our kids are motivated to finish the season off strong, but there is also some revenge to get at a team that beat you.”
Harvard is lead by a pair of guards, Jim Goffredo and Drew Housman, who, since the loss of Brian Cusworth earlier this season, have taken on the bulk of the scoring duties for the Crimson. On the season, Goffredo and Housman are averaging 14.4 and 13.4 points per game, respectively.
“They are integral parts of what [Harvard] does,” Donahue said. “They are both very crafty and play off each other well. No matter what defense you are in, you have to pay attention to where they are at.”
Other than Penn, Harvard is the only team that the Red has been unable to conquer this season. A victory would further cement Cornell’s place among the top teams in the conference.
“Beating everybody is something you have to do to build a program up to win a championship,” Donahue said.
On the back end of the weekend, Dartmouth (9-16, 4-8) will enter Newman Arena after last weekend’s near upset of league juggernaut Penn in Hanover, N.H. A pair of three-pointers by Leon Pattman and Jason Meyer with less than 20 seconds left to play sealed the fate of the Green and sent Penn home with the victory. Still, Dartmouth’s strong performance is indicative of its offensive talent.
“If they get it going, they can be pretty tough to stop,” senior tri-captain Graham Dow said of Dartmouth. “We are going to have to have a defensive emphasis to try and contain their good scorers in Pattman and [Alex] Barnett.”
Pattman leads the team in a number of categories, including scoring, where he has given 16.1 points per game. Barnett, only a sophomore, leads the team in rebounds and is second in scoring.
The game against Dartmouth will see Cornell’s seniors play their last collegiate game inside Newman Arena. Dow, fellow captains Andrew Naeve and Kevin App, and classmates Jason Mitchell and Ugo Ihekweazu hope to make it a game to remember.
“We just want to have some fun,” Dow said. “In four years, there has been a lot of ups and downs and we just want to finish on a high note. We are proud of what we have accomplished.”
Although a lot needs to happen in order for the Red to share the league crown, there is still much for Cornell to play for this weekend. With a 17 win season and 10 league wins on the line, Cornell is potentially looking at its best season since it won the Ivy title outright in 1988.
“Especially for the seniors, they is no finer way to remember your college basketball career that to go out as a winner,” Donahue said. “The motivation is there to go out and play well and win basketball games.