November 14, 2008

Aggressive Defense Emphasized

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Ask any of the players or coaches and they will tell you that it wasn’t the sharp shooting or rim-rocking dunks that allowed the Red to sweep its Ivy League schedule, it was the team’s defense. However, this defense wasn’t without its imperfections.
“We were a good defensive team last year,” Donahue said. “We weren’t great. We made people shoot challenged jumps shots for the most part and that strategy works unless someone’s making shots.”
Superficially, it seems Ivy teams weren’t making shots against Cornell last year — the Red led the league in field goal defense. However, Donahue points out that his squad was second to last in 3-point field goal defense.
“We basically kept people in front of us and made sure we limited their penetration, which is a huge part of my belief,” he said. “Then we challenged the shots and limited them to one shot. … We should be able to now still stop penetration and still get out and guard the three a lot better.”
Donahue points to the size of his guards like junior Ryan Wittman, and the on-the-ball defense of senior co-captain Adam Gore — who should be back for some, if not all of the Ivy season — as reasons why the Red’s perimeter defense could improve.
“We need to get better defensively, we should be better,” he said. “… But right now that’s not our mindset. My job is to make sure we do that.”
In Donahue’s eyes, an even stronger defense could help create offense. The Red registered 67 steals, the second worst total in the Ancient Eight. With the strong inside presence junior of Alex Tyler and the shot blocking ability of senior Jeff Foote, Donahue hopes is that Cornell will become more aggressive on the perimeter, finding passing lanes and creating transition baskets. He thinks the Red could improve both its 2-3 zone and man-to-man defense.