SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The men’s basketaball team (0-4, 0-0 Ivy) came out aof the half trailing No. 10 Syracuse (7-0, 0-0 Big East) by nine points. Then junior forward Jake Rohe hit a layup, bringing the Red within seven and ‘Cuse coach Jim Boeheim out of his seat. And that was it for Cornell’s chances.
Orangeman senior Preston Shumpert took over from that point, scoring 14 of his game-high 23 points in the second half and carrying a talented Syracuse team to a 76-58 victory last night at the Carrier Dome.
Although a three-pointer from Cornell freshman A.J. Castro made the score 36-30 with 17:23 left, Cornell couldn’t draw any closer to the Orange, as the home team went on a 26-10 run after Castro’s trey.
“The key part of the game, in my mind, was when Shumpert just decided, ‘Well, I gotta start taking over here,'” Red head coach Steve Donahue recalled. “When he did that, now we’re reacting to him, and now [Syracuse forward Hakim] Warrick starts getting some real open looks.”
Warrick, a freshman, had a breakout game for the ‘Cuse, doubling his previous career high by scoring 22 points. He also helped out on the glass, snatching a game-high 11 rebounds.
Rebounding, which has been an Achilles’ heel for the Red, wasn’t a big problem in the first half despite the absence of starting center Chris Vandenberg. Syracuse held a slight 17-16 edge in boards going into the break. However, the Orangemen pulled down 23 rebounds to Cornell’s 13 in the second half.
“I thought they did a better job on the boards than we should have allowed them to,” Boeheim remarked. “They block out, they’re physical and they did a nice job. They take time off the clock, they run their offense, and that’s what we pretty much expected them to do.”
Vandenberg missed the game after suffering a severe knee injury in practice the day before. The 6-10 freshman is averaging 6.3 rebounds and three blocks a game. He will be out of action for at least four to six weeks and might be done for the season.
The hole created by Vandenberg’s injury forced Donahue to adjust the Red’s gameplan slightly.
“I think we would have liked to go man-to-man a little more,” Donahue said. “I would have thought about extending ourselves a little bit knowing I had him back there.”
Without Vandenberg and 6-8 freshman Gabe Stephenson, Cornell faced a serious size disadvantage against Syracuse, which features a pair of seven-footers.
“They’re definitely a bigger team than us. You just gotta scrap,” Rohe said. “Everybody’s gotta box out. All five guys as a committee have to rebound.”
Syracuse was also without one of its star players. Junior guard DeShaun Williams, who is averaging a team-high 21.6 points per game, sat out while he served part of a three-game suspension for a DUI arrest.
Sophomore Ka’Ron Barnes, the Red’s leading scorer, paced Cornell with 15 points and also had a team-high four rebounds, tying freshman Eric Taylor.
Rohe chipped in with 10 points, and Taylor was 4-for-4 from the floor, adding another 10 points to Cornell’s cause. Taylor played an increased role thanks to Vandenberg’s injury.
“He just does a hard-nosed job, he goes after the basketball, he rebounds the ball,” Donahue said of Taylor. “He understands this offense as good as anybody.”
Outside shooting again hurt the Red, as Cornell shot a measly 1-for-10 from three-point range in the first half and 4-for-22 for the game.
“I thought they had decent looks. I’m a little confused with why our three-point shooting is as bad as it is. It’s something we’ll work on,” Donahue said.
While the Red shot 38% from the floor, improving its season percentage, the Orange was an even 50%, including 33% on three-point tries.
A bright spot for Cornell was its free-throw shooting. The Red was 14-for-16 from the line, marking the only positive statistical category in which it beat Syracuse. The Orangemen were 10-for-16.
The result of the contest kept a pair of impressive streaks going. It was the 25th consecutive win for Syracuse against Cornell. The last time the Red took a victory from the Orange was in December 1968. ‘Cuse also won its 26th straight game in the month of November. The last November loss for the Orangemen was on Nov. 28, 1996.
Cornell wrapped up its season opening four-game road swing with the Syracuse loss. The 0-4 start is the Red’s worst opening since the 1997-98 season.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed with 0-4, but I think if you realize all the stuff we’ve gone through, with major injuries to our program, a lot of young guys, a lot of guys not playing as well as they could, I think we’re OK,” Donahue evaluated.
Next up on the Red’s slate is Colgate (2-2, 0-0 Patriot), whom the Orange beat 70-51 on Tuesday. The Red Raiders are led by senior captain Pat Campolieta, who is averaging 14.8 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game. Tipoff will be at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow night at Newman Arena.
“The test is now, what do we do with this next 10-game stretch?” Donahue said. “That’s going to be all about how good we are, where we’re at, where we’re going.”
Archived article by Alex Fineman