Once classes end, the men’s basketball team’s season will get into full swing.
Each game thus far has been a lesson for the team. It has had to respond to a different, faster and more aggressive style of play under head coach Steve Donahue.
In the first game of the season, the Red lost against two-time defending Patriot League champions, Lafayette, as it couldn’t counter a second half spurt from the Leopards.
Next came the Spartan Coca-Cola Classic at Michigan State University. Coming in as underdogs, the Red chased the Spartans from the start, but in the end was blown out at the Breslin Center. In the consolation game, though, the Red staged a late comeback against Bradley but when sophomore David Muller’s three-pointer to go into overtime jumped out of the rim.
Wednesday, senior tri-captain Ray Mercedes was able to send the game against Army into overtime during which the Red outscored the Black Knights by 10 points. Donahue acquired his first win at Cornell.
This team is just getting better and better.
“I feel that we’ve made progress . Right now I feel much more comfortable with my team,” Donahue reflected.
As the Fall semester is ending, Donahue has time to become even closer with his team. The men will be on the East Hill for the entire vacation. They have a total of ten games during the break — they only play 27 games in the season.
The team has two contests in the coming days.
On Monday, Skidmore will challenge the Red in Newman Arena.
A week from today the Red hosts Bucknell. This is the last chance for the team to perform while most of the students are still on campus.
While many positives are surfacing for the Red, most notably is the emergence of freshman Ka’Ron Barnes who was the Ivy League Rookie of the Week after his performance at MSU. However, there is still much to work on before the league season starts. The team has been streaky, digging itself into large holes early in games.
“We’ve been good in stretches and bad in stretches,” Donahue said. “When we have a sense of urgency, we play very well. We need to be more consistent.”
When most students leave to go home, the cagers will be able to concentrate whole-heartedly on basketball without the distraction of classes. Canisius comes to Ithaca on December 16th and the Red travel to Lehigh on the 22nd.
“Winter break is a pretty good stretch for team bonding. It’s usually when the team comes together as a unit and gets comfortable with one another,” Donahue explained.
After a five-day rest, the team flies out to Utah State to compete in its second tournament on the year during which it will compete against Air Force and either Albany or the host Aggies. Since Air Force is coached by former Princeton assistant, Joe Scott, it should be a telling game with the Ivy League season fast approaching.
As the New Year begins, Cornell will play Patriot League foe, Colgate on Jan. 3. Sacred Heart comes to Ithaca on Jan. 6.
Then the part of the season that everyone has been waiting for happens. Cornell trips to New Jersey and Philadelphia to play Princeton and Penn, back-to-back.
Before its opening game, Donahue emphasized how he wanted to win a conference title. On Jan. 12 and 13, he will find out if his new team can compete with the two most dominant teams in the league.
“This is a time to challenge ourselves and prepare for the Ivy season,” Donahue said.
When the rest of the University returns to the East Hill, the basketball team will have long been settled in Ithaca, either trying to keep afloat or perhaps enjoying its status as the most feared team in the Ivy League.
Archived article by Amanda Angel