In its first game against Western Michigan, the Red was relentless on defense, holding the Broncos to just 30% shooting from the floor. This solid defensive effort was led by the forwards, who combined for eleven blocks and five steals.
With length and depth at this position, the Red will look to its forwards especially for defensive pressure.
“Defense is always emphasized in practice, it’s going to be an important part of our success,” said senior forward Eitan Chemerinski. “We did a good job [against Western Michigan] getting onto the help side and getting some weak side blocks.”
Leading the attack defensively and offensively is sophomore forward Shonn Miller — the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Miller averaged 6.1 rebounds per game last year, and finished the season second in the conference in blocked shots with 48.
On Saturday, Miller was a wall in the paint, swatting six shots — two of which ended up behind the home team’s bench.
Joining Miller in the frontcourt is senior forward Errick Peck, who is returning from an injury that sidelined him for his entire junior year. However, Peck was one of the Red’s main options in his sophomore campaign, averaging 11 points and 3.6 rebounds off the bench. His explosive moves to the basket and ability to get to the free throw line will take some of the pressure of scoring off Miller. Peck proved his ability to score against St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, scoring 17 points and grabbing seven boards before fouling out in the final minutes of the loss.
According to Chemerinski, the depth the squad has at this position is something that will benefit the team as the season wears on.
“Coach emphasizes resting on the bench in order to play with a lot of energy,” he said. “We’ll always have guys to step in and there won’t be a drop off.”
Because Chemerinski, Miller and Peck are all starters, an integral part of that depth will be senior forward Josh Figini and junior forward Dwight Tarwater. Figini gave the Red an important spark off the bench last season, putting up 4.3 points and 2.1 rebounds a game.
At 6-9 with the ability to step out and hit from beyond the arc as well, Figini can draw larger defenders out to the perimeter and open up space for offensive rebounding.
Tarwater made seven starts as a junior, giving Cornell a solid 3.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Beyond these five forwards who have already been given significant minutes, the Red can also look to senior Peter McMillan, sophomores Dave LaMore and Nenad Tomic and freshman Holt Harmon to give the starters some extra rest.
Sophomore Deion Giddens and freshman Braxton Bunce also provide some significant height as centers, though Giddens can also play forward. At 6-11, Bunce is the tallest player on the Red’s roster, but is sidelined for the start of this season with an injury.
Chemerinski noted that this extra rest would be especially important considering the style of basketball the Red plays.
“We’re a quick team, the transition game will be a way to get easy baskets,” he said. “As bigs, we have to run the floor to get guys open and create those easy opportunities.”
With all three starting forwards healthy for the first time this season, and with plenty of options off the bench that can give the starters a breather from the squad’s fast paced transition game, the Red’s frontcourt will be a steadfast backbone for the defense
Original Author: Scott Chiusano