March 7, 2003

M. Hoops Takes Trip

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After a roller coaster ride last weekend that saw the men’s basketball team (9-16, 4-8 Ivy) come from behind to sweep Harvard and then drop a lead on poor foul shooting to lose to Dartmouth the next night, the team is looking to rebound. Recovering from last weekend’s letdown, the Red will need to regroup, as it faces its toughest road trip to close out the season, playing Princeton (14-10, 8-3) at Jadwin Gymnasium tonight, and Penn (19-5, 11-0) at the Palestra tomorrow.

Of the team’s final games of the season, head coach Steve Donahue said, “It’s a big weekend for us. We have a lot of things to shoot for. Any time you play Penn or Princeton, it’s a great opportunity to go down there and show them what you can do. We’re trying to make this almost like the beginning of next season; set the tone, play as well as we can, and if things go right, we’re going to try and play our best basketball.”

Sophomore tri-captain Eric Taylor also believes this will be a good weekend for the Red.

“We’re definitely excited; these are the top two teams in the league,” he said. “We’re excited to show what we can do, and really send a message for next year … show that we are one of the top teams for next year. We’re only losing two seniors, so we’re really excited and optimistic about next year and all of that starts this weekend.”

Setting the tone will be important after the Red played one of its poorest games on Feb. 8, losing to Princeton, 67-49, and giving up 25 turnovers. Despite many of the unforced errors, the team shot well, going 45 percent in the first half, and 50 percent in the second.

Junior Ed Persia was the leading scorer for the Tigers that night, shooting 4-of-5 from behind the line and finishing with 16 points. Senior Ray Robbins came off the bench to record 14 points, shooting 3-of-4 from behind the line. One marked change will be the absence of forward Spencer Gloger, who left the team for academic reasons back in February. The junior had been averaging 16.5 ppg, but was held to 11 at Newman.

On Friday, the Red will look to end a 17 game losing streak at Jadwin Gym. Robbins has moved into the starting lineup after Gloger left, and was last week’s Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers are coming off of a weekend split, beating Yale on the road, 61-52, but losing to Brown, 88-74.

Unhappy with the team’s turnovers in the first meeting, Donahue said, “We just weren’t sharp mentally or physically. I think we need to take care of the basketball and obviously step up our defense a little bit. But really take care of the ball and play a much better all-around basketball game and we should be fine.”

Junior tri-captain Ka’Ron Barnes explained that the team needs to play stronger basketball on both ends of the court. Specifically the team is looking to, “Tackle their defense, and stop their offense as well.”

“In the first game we had a lot of turnovers, so we have to make a point of attacking them and taking care of the ball,” said Barnes.

After tonight’s game the team will have to turn around and head to the University of Pennsylvania.

The Red’s first game against the Quakers was one of the best it played all season, energetic on both the offensive and defensive end. Entering the half, the teams were nearly even, with Penn holding just a four point edge, 38-34. However, after keeping it within reach for most of the second, the Quakers increased the lead to as much as 11 with nine minutes left. Strong shooting by Barnes and impressive overall team play allowed the Red to bring the game to within one, 67-68 with 11 seconds. After Penn netted two free throws, Barnes attempted a three point shot to tie it, but narrowly missed, giving the win to Penn.

Playing at the Palestra without the support of the Cornell fans, the Red will need to once again come out strong. Penn is currently undefeated in league play and is looking to clinch the Ivy Title. The team is coming off a road trip in which they beat Yale, 80-75, and Brown, 69-65. Junior Jeff Schiffner averaged 19.5 points en route to being named this week’s Ivy Player of the Week.

“They’re such a good basketball team,” explained Donahue. “It is going to be an emotional night for the whole Penn program, they could clinch the title, the seniors are going out, that great class they have. It’s our last game; we have to go out there and play our best basketball and enjoy a great college atmosphere. There’s no reason to be tight, there’s nothing on the line for us. We have to play as hard as we can, as well as we can and have some fun with it.”

On the possibility of playing the spoiler to Penn’s perfect season, Taylor said, “It would be really nice, definitely. We almost caught them up here. If we could knock them off that would really be something great.”

Tonight’s game against Princeton is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Archived article by Kristen Haunss