For the second time in as many weeks, the men’s basketball team will face an opponent from a major conference, but after falling, 67-62, to No. 16 Syracuse (2-0) on Nov. 9, the Red (1-1) will be looking for a different result when it takes on Penn State (0-0) tomorrow in University Park, Penn.
Cornell led Syracuse, 55-52, with 6:01 remaining on the clock in the Carrier Dome before late turnovers and defensive missteps allowed the Orange back into the game. Tomorrow, the Red will challenge another team on its home court, but hopes to put the lessons learned against Syracuse to achieve a different result.
“What I hope to do is use that as a learning experience. – That’s the most disappointing thing. We had an opportunity there to win that basketball game and you did a lot of things to put yourself in that situation, and then when you got in that situation, you didn’t do a good job,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “We talked about it, and we looked ourselves right in the mirror and decided, you know what, we’re not going to let it happen again.”
The Nittany Lions struggled throughout the 2004-05 season, finishing 7-23 overall and 1-15 in the Big 10. However, they return four starters, including sophomore forward Geary Claxton, the team’s leading score (12.7 points per game) in his rookie season. Backing him up is Travis Parker, who chipped in 11.4 points per game last year.
“It’s a physical team, and they’re even more physical and more athletic than they were last year,” Donahue said. “[Claxton’s] very athletic, really goes to the offensive boards, and he’s great in transition. – No matter what, we’ve got to recognize where he’s at and what he does, know his strengths, know his weaknesses. He’s a very good basketball player and obviously that’s a key guy on their team.”
Penn State, however, will not be able to focus on one offensive threat from the Red, as four players are averaging double figures through two games this season. Senior forward Lenny Collins has 18.5 points per game to go with 6.5 rebounds per game, while rookie point guard Adam Gore has added 16.5 points per game, including a 22-point night against the Orange that included a 6-of-10 performance from beyond the arc. Senior Ryan Rourke is third on the team with 13.5 points per game, while junior Jason Hartford is averaging 10.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game off the bench.
“I think that’s a strength of our team. It’s going to be difficult for all four guys to have stellar games in terms of scoring,” Donahue said. “I think what helps us is that we have the ability for those four and maybe one or two other guys to make plays and make shots in the half-court. I think that’s why we’re a hard team to guard at time because we’re pretty consistent. – Whatever the defense gives us, we have the ability because of our balance to make them pay for over-helping on someone else.”
While the team was energized by its narrow loss to Syracuse, its focus is on avoiding the same errors against Penn State in another hostile road environment.
“This is another opportunity to go into another beautiful arena and play a Big 10 school. I think we had a great week of practice, I think guys are prepared. I think it’s going to make us better in the long run. – I’m confident if we play our best now and we do all the things we’re supposed to do, that we have a pretty good opportunity to win all the games on our schedule,” Donahue said. “I think they realize there’s a good chance to be a very good basketball team. But in the same sense, they realize that they don’t have a whole lot of margin for error against a team from the Big 10. That’s the way it is. You’ve got to play really good, fundamentally sound basketball and do all the little things – especially on their home court – to stay in the game.”
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor