January 30, 2004

M. Cagers Look to Improve to 4-0

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Yankees fans everywhere will be treated to a little Ivy League basketball tonight as the Cornell men’s basketball team hits the Mass Pike to battle Harvard at Lavietes Pavillion. The YES network will carry the conference tilt between the Red (7-8, 2-0 Ivy) and the Crimson (2-13, 1-1 Ivy) live at 7 p.m. Senior captain Ka’Ron Barnes will then lead his teammates north to Manchester, N.H. for a game against Dartmouth (3-13, 1-1) tomorrow.

The Red, having won five of seven, finds itself in the middle of a six-game road swing and with an opportunity to come out of this weekend with a 4-0 Ivy record; the last time Cornell started even 3-0, the year was 1982. As both games are in front of hostile crowds, the Red has a chance to establish itself as a team that can win under any conditions.

Cornell was able to do just that in last February’s game against Harvard, pulling out a 68-63 victory. Unfortunately for the Red, it was not as successful against Dartmouth last season, dropping both games.

“You’ve got to be able to win on the road in this league,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “We’re going to have to win four halves of basketball this weekend if we expect to win.”

The Crimson will look to junior guard Kevin Rogus to provide the spark on offense. With 16.1 points per game, Rogus is the Ivy League’s third-leading scorer. Luckily for Cornell, the top two scorers in the Ancient Eight roam the Red backcourt — guards Barnes (20.4 ppg) and junior Cody Toppert (17.3 ppg). The slightly taller Toppert (6-4, 202 pounds) will draw the initial assignment of shutting down Rogus (6-4, 196 pounds), providing an exciting one-on-one duel between two of the purest shooters in the league.

Cornell bests Harvard in every statistical category except free-throw percentage and averages 73.1 ppg against the Crimson’s 63.2.

Dartmouth comes off a split in last weekend’s home-and-home series with Harvard and will play Columbia tonight. The Green has only two starters averaging in double figures for scoring and is 2-4 at home, but the Red will still face a tough test.

“They shoot and penetrate very well,” said Donahue. “It’s a concern for us; they spread the floor and slow the game down. We’ll have to guard them for all 35 seconds.”

Although neither Harvard nor Dartmouth appear as strong as Cornell on paper, the team is not looking past this weekend to tougher games down the line.

“Keeping our focus isn’t an issue with us,” said Donahue. “Harvard is a tough venue to play in. Both of these team can and have played well, especially on their home courts.”

Tonight’s game against Harvard can be seen on the YES Network (Time Warner Channel 74) 7 p.m.; the Red tips off at Dartmouth on Saturday night at 7.

Archived article by Per Ostman