Four days. That’s all that the men’s basketball team was given to spend the holiday. Instead of taking time to relax and celebrate, the squad played eight games, traveled to Salt Lake City and started its 2001 Ivy League campaign over the winter break.
Now in the midst of the season, the Red (4-10, 0-2 Ivy) returns to Ithaca to host Columbia tomorrow at 7 p.m. in Newman Arena.
After dropping games to the Air Force Academy (63-51) and SUNY-Albany (72-59) in the Gossner Foods Classic at Utah State, the Red returned to win its next two contests against Colgate and Sacred Heart.
Last Friday the team opened its Ivy season at Princeton. Despite falling behind early 13-8 lead, the Tigers closed the first half with a commanding 42-19 score. The final score read 78-53.
Cornell never had a chance against Ivy League favorite Penn the following evening in head coach Steve Donahue’s first contest against his former team. Cornell played a sluggish opening half, and was on the wrong end of a 64-49 rout.
“I think I’ve learned a lot more about our team,” Donahue said. “We’ve come closer [over the break].”
But there is a relief in the basketball office that the Red has survived its toughest competition of the season. Nevertheless Columbia presents challenges at both ends of the court.
“They played both Princeton and Penn and had a stronger showing against them than we did,” Donahue said.
The Lions (4-10, 0-2 Ivy) had a late season surge to finish last year third in the Ivies behind Penn and Princeton and are expected to place in the same position this year according to preseason polls. They held the Tigers and Quakers to an impressive 40.9 percent field goal percentage.
They also have one of the more prolific scorers in the league in junior forward Craig Austin. His 15.7 points per game places him seventh in the conference.
“We didn’t get it done on the road, but if we win this week against Columbia, and win against them next weekend [when the team visits New York City], we will be 2-2 in the Ivy League,” Donahue said.
But not everything has come together for the Red in the last month.
“I really haven’t found a starting five that I’m comfortable with,” Donahue added.
In fact Donahue has not used the same starters in consecutive games since classes ended last semester. Senior tri-captain center Greg Barratt hand sophomore forward Jake Rohe have started the last eight games. Senior tri-captain forward Ray Mercedes, senior tri-captain guard Kevin Cuttica, junior guard Pete Carroll, sophomore forward Randy Gabler, sophomore guard Wallace Prather, and sophomore forward Dave Muller have also had their turns in starting roles.
Freshman standout Ka’Ron Barnes has also started and is averaging close to 30 minutes per game. He has acquired Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors three times — more than any other rookie in the conference.
“Hard work and practice counts,” Donahue said, “I want to find the guys who [have done that] and reward them.”
As of yesterday Donahue could not name the expected starters for tomorrow’s game.
The Red has to continue without freshman center Garn Smith. The 6’9″ engineer decided to leave the team after last semester. He played in a total of six games averaging 10.5 minutes and fewer than two points per game.
The Red has braved the storm in its first weekend of Ivy games, but the rest of its conference games are not being taken lightly. Still, Donahue is confident that his team has the ability to prevail in the upcoming contests.
Archived article by Amanda Angel