As the rest of the East hill settles in for study week, the men’s basketball team begins a grueling five-game road trip. The first test comes tonight at 7 p.m. against the University of Vermont. The Red (2-2, 0-0 Ivy) will look to even the all-time series with the Catamounts (0-4, 0-0 America East) at five games a piece and avenge last January’s 66-52 home court loss.
Cornell comes into tonight’s game riding the crest of a two-game winning streak, including a 79-66 victory over Army in Rochester and a 69-37 dismantling of Ithaca College on Tuesday at Newman Arena. Should the Red prove victorious, Cornell would have its first three-game non-conference winning streak since the 1996-97 season. A victory over Vermont would also give Cornell a winning record, the latest in a season that the team has been above .500 since that same 96-97 campaign.
In January’s defeat, the Red was outrebounded by Vermont, 39-25, and connected on just 36 percent of its shots. Perimeter defense doomed Cornell, as Vermont sunk a then season-high 10 three-pointers.
To win, the Red will have to improve on its defensive effort from the last meeting. Head coach Steve Donahue has made the right adjustments; the defensive prowess of this year’s team has been evident already in this young season. Cornell held Ithaca to under 20 points in both halves of Tuesday’s game, frustrating the Bombers into shooting 24.6 percent from the field. Senior point guard and co-captain Ka’Ron Barnes had a career-high five steals, and leads the Ivy League with an average of 3.0 thefts per game. The Red hopes to similarly stifle the Vermont attack, which has yet to score over 67 points in a game this season.
The Catamounts have a deceptively poor record and should not be overlooked. Vermont qualified for the NCAA tournament last spring as the champion of the America East conference. More recently, the team nearly beat UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Oct. 29, losing 68-67.
The Red will have to contain the past two America East Player of the Year honorees, both of which are on the Vermont roster. Last season’s winner, forward Taylor Coppenrath, is averaging 24.0 ppg and scored 38 against UCLA. Guard T.J. Sorrentine took an injury redshirt for the 2002-03 season, but was a backcourt stalwart for Vermont the year before.
After tonight’s game, the Red will stay in the America East conference and meet New Hampshire on Sunday. After taking exams, the team travels to Pennsylvania for games against Lafayette, Lehigh, and Duquesne (on New Year’s Eve). Cornell will face St. Francis (N.Y.) on the road and St. Francis (Pa.) back on the East Hill. Winter Break will come to an end as the Red visits junior guard Cody Toppert’s hometown Lobos in New Mexico.
Archived article by Per Ostman