Its second chance time. This weekend the men’s basketball team goes on the road to match up against Penn (13-9, 6-3 Ivy) and Ivy League leader Princeton (15-7, 8-1). Both teams earned victories over the Red two weeks ago in Ithaca.
But head coach Steve Donahue said today’s and tomorrow’s games wouldn’t be about revenge.
“I always try to stress that everything that we do out on the basketball court is about us,” he said. “You look at the other team, but you’re really concerned about what you do. And that’s what we’re concerned with.”
So Cornell will, above all, look to execute its game plan and minimize mistakes.
The Red (11-12, 6-4 Ivy) comes into the game off a heart-breaking loss to Harvard last Saturday. Cornell brought the score to within a point twice in the final minute and a half of the game, but two missed threes and the Crimson’s ace freethrow shooting put the game out of reach in the last seconds.
Earlier this season against Princeton, the Red lost a slow-paced, hard-fought, half-court game, 69-64, as two-guard Will Venable and center Judson Wallace scored 28 and 22 points for the Tigers, respectively.
Against Penn, the Cornell squad put itself in a huge hole in the first, going down 44-20 at halftime, and the team couldn’t muster the effort to bounce back. In that half the Red shot an anemic 32 percent in the first, including 16 percent from beyond the arc.
Donahue expects his teams showing to improve this weekend.
“I think we learned from those two games,” Donahue said. “We just need to do better at what we tried to accomplish in those games. Against Princeton, I thought, for long stretches we did some good things. Penn obviously jumped on us early and got us down, so that game is kind of something we want to revenge in our own minds. We know we can play better.”
Interestingly enough, playing away from Newman Arena might actually help the Red out. The team has had considerable success in its away games against Ivy opponents.
“We’ve played well on the road most of the year. Even the games we lost, we played good basketball,” said Donahue.
“The team at home sometimes feels the pressure to play well in front of their own fans, and they can press a little bit, get tight. I think we’ll play looser on the road and enjoy the hostile environment. If you’re a competitor, that’s what you’ll enjoy,” he continued.
So far, the Red has fed off that adversity to collect a 4-1 mark on the road in Ivy play versus a 2-3 league record at home.
A good road trip would go a long way towards resurrecting any lingering chances Cornell has of placing at the top of the Ivy standings.
“We need to bounce back from some ups and downs we’ve had recently,” said Donahue. If we go down there and play well, then the race is back on a little bit.”
To that end, the Red has spent the week working on keeping consistent defense for all 35 seconds of the shot clock, avoiding breakdowns and missed assignments, and making sure to move the ball and stay patient on offense to make teams work to guard them.
“We’re just going down there to try and play a real solid basketball game,” said Donahue. “I think if we do that, the results will be what we want.”
A pair of splits against the league’s powerhouses would go a long way towards validating the Red’s success this season and would ensure the team’s first winning record since the ’92-’93 season.
Concluded Donahue, “I do think its a huge weekend for our program, to reestablish ourselves, and we’re excited about trying to do that.”