After tough losses on the road to major conference opponents No. 16 Syracuse and Penn State, the men’s basketball team will return to the welcome haven of Newman Arena tonight to face Colgate, a more familiar foe.
In the last meeting between the two teams, the Raiders (2-1) came away with a 70-56 victory on Nov. 23, 2004, but Cornell head coach Steve Donahue is hoping the Red can apply lessons already learned in this young season and come away with a win in the team’s home opener.
“Colgate’s a team that’s had our number the last few years, so obviously it’s a big game for us, [Colgate is an] intrastate rival, and we’re excited about being home,” he said. “These other places help you become a better team, but you still have to win games at home against teams that are similar to you, at the same level, and I think that’s what Colgate presents.”
Cornell (1-2) has fallen to the Raiders in the last four meetings, but senior forward Lenny Collins and freshman point guard Adam Gore will lead the Red as it attempts to win its home opener for a second consecutive season. Collins has opened the season averaging 17.0 points per game and 6.0 rebounds per game, while Gore was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week yesterday after averaging 15.7 points and 5.0 boards per game. Senior forward Ryan Rourke adds 11.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest. In the post, junior center Andrew Naeve has put up a matching 7.7 points and rebounds per game, while junior Jason Hartford adds in 9.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
“We’ve been a little inconsistent with our offense. I think when you look at us, we have balance inside and out. We have to be balanced, we have to get to the foul line, we have to get some things in transition, we have to make them guard us, those type of things,” Donahue said.
On the other hand, defense has been steady for the Red, as it has held opponents to a .370 shooting percentage from the field, and just 19 percent from 3-point range.
This defense will be put to the test, as the Raiders will bring a balanced attack to the East Hill tomorrow night. Kyle Roemer threatens from the outside, as he is averaging 15.3 points per game on the strength of a .630 shooting percentage from the field, including .529 from beyond the arc. Kendall Chones provides a second option, averaging 15.0 points and a team-best 4.7 rebounds in the paint. Jon Simon and Alvin Reed are playing at a 9.3 and 9.0 points per game rate, respectively.
“I think [Colgate has] done a good job, as we’ve built this program, of taking advantage of us in certain aspects,” Donahue said. “Sometimes it’s the boards, sometimes we’re not taking care of the ball. I think they’ve been the aggressor, I think they’ve been more physical than us in the past.”
In order to turn the tables tonight on the Raiders, Donahue said the Red will have to reverse the recent trend of making mistakes at crucial moments of the game. Against both Syracuse and Penn State, Cornell has fallen victim to turnovers and unanswered runs by opponents in the final stretch of the game. Most recently, rebounding was a sore spot for the Red, as it gave up 22 offensive boards and 19 second-chance points to the Nittany Lions.
“I thought we did a pretty good job taking care of the ball against a pretty good defense at Penn [game]. It’s the critical parts of the game, [and] it’s happened in each of the games, really -it happened with St. Francis at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half, we kind of go on that lull. We do it at Syracuse, with about five minutes to go we struggle. And [Penn State], it’s about nine, 10 minutes to go in the game, it’s on both ends of the floor -it’s not necessarily turnovers,” Donahue said. “It’s a stretch of the game that we’ve got to tighten up. And turnovers are a part of something that we have to be very good at – we’re not the most athletic team, we’re not the team that’s going to make up for it in different ways, so you’ve got to take care of the basketball, that should be a real strength of ours. So if we don’t do that, we’re going to struggle. We need to do that, especially during the stretches that cost us the game.”
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor