February 7, 2003

M. Hoops Plays Host to Penn, Princeton

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A string of consecutive games against the 2002 Ivy League tri-champions continues for the men’s basketball team this weekend as it hosts the Penn Quakers tonight and the Princeton Tigers tomorrow.

Last weekend was a tough one for the Red (7-10, 2-2 Ivy), which lost consecutive games to Brown and defending tri-champ Yale. On Friday night, Brown snapped a three-game winning streak for Cornell with a 70-54 win, and Yale continued its resurgence by manhandling the Red 76-47 on Saturday.

The Red had an awful weekend offensively, shooting just over 30 percent from the field, including an embarrassing 6-37 from 3-point range on the weekend.

“We really ran bad offenses,” said head coach Steve Donahue of last week’s games. “We took quick shots, we weren’t patient, we didn’t have poise with the basketball.”

This weekend will be a fresh start, though, and after a good week of practice the cagers hope to get back on track.

“We have to get back to where we were,” said Donahue, “we need to take a step forward again and get back on track.”

Penn (10-5, 2-0) sports one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league. It returns three first-team All-Ivy selections from last season, including the League’s Player of the Year, forward Ugonna Onyekwe. This trio, which also includes forward Koko Archibong and guard Andrew Toole, anchors a team that has been on a roll as of late.

After a slow start to the season, the Quakers have won seven out of their last eight games, including the last two against Dartmouth and Harvard.

“They’re very fast and athletic, they have a lot of different weapons,” said Donahue. “We understand that we have to get good shots at the basket, floor balance is critical.”

Donahue, who served as Penn head coach Fran Dunphy’s top assistant for 10 years, will be looking for his first career win over the Quakers.

“There are a lot of people who are so supportive of me from Penn, that I want to play well,” he said. “They don’t want me to win, but I want to win.”

Sophomore center Eric Taylor expects this familiarity to work towards the Red’s advantage.

“He knows a lot of the players, he recruited a lot of the players,” he said. “He knows some of the plays they’re trying to do, he just knows what has worked over the years.”

The Tigers (8-7, 2-0) remain a top threat in the league despite the loss of All-Ivy second-teamers Mike Bechtold and Ahmed El-Nokali to graduation. Princeton brings a four-game winning streak into the weekend, but has struggled, playing very close games against Harvard and Dartmouth last weekend.

Junior forward Spencer Gloger leads Princeton with 16.3 points per game despite missing all of last year. Kyle Wente’s 3.8 assists per game rank him fourth in the Ivy League.

“They spread you out,” said Donahue. “Although they will run on occasion, they are more inclined to work you on the half court.

“We’re going to have to really guard them. They’re not going to give you a whole lot of opportunities or breaks, so you’re going to have to run a really good half-court offense.”

For Cornell, the keys to the weekend will be to put forth a more coherent offensive effort. After tallying only 20 assists on the weekend, the team concentrated on moving the ball around better in practice this week.

The Red will also hope for stronger shooting performances from guards junior Ka’Ron Barnes and sophomore Cody Toppert, both of whom seemed to fade into oblivion at times last weekend.

“We’re doing some new things offensively,” said Taylor. “We have some tough games coming up, but we’re definitely ready for the challenges.”

Archived article by Owen Bochner