November 29, 2005

Red to Face Leopards

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Bragging rights are up for grabs as the men’s basketball team (2-3) will see some familiar faces when it takes on Lafayette (2-2) tonight in Easton, Penn.

Cornell head coach Steve Donahue’s history with Lafayette counterpart Fran O’Hanlon predates Donahue’s time with the Red. Donahue served as a an assistant coach to O’Hanlon at Monsignor Bonner High School in the 1987-88 season in which Bonner went on to capture the Philadelphia Catholic League Championship. The two also teamed up as assistant coaches at Penn under the Quakers’ head coach Fran Dunphy.

“[O’Hanlon] is my No. 1 mentor in the game,” Donahue said. “It’s a rivalry. I think we both want to win badly, but I don’t think either of us gets enjoyment out of beating the other guy.”

Lafayette leads the overall series, 10-7, but a win tonight would even Donahue’s record against O’Hanlon at 3-3.

The rivalry will continue on the court as sophomore guard Khaliq Gant will get a reunion with former high school teammate, and the Leopards’ leading scorer, Bilal Abdullah. Both guards wear No. 21.

“We were actually talking about it [Sunday] night and I was telling him that I’m definitely a better player at No. 21,” Gant said.

Lafayette is coming off a convincing, 57-46, win on Sunday at Princeton. The Leopards limited the Tigers to just 13 points in the first half while tallying five blocked shots on the game.

“I think Lafayette does a good job of changing defenses. They’ll play some full court stuff, they’ll zone you, they’ll trap you, and they’ll play straight man,” Donahue said. “I think you’ve got to be good with the basketball, [and] make sure you’re always being aggressive on the plays”

Abdullah had 15 points in the victory and is averaging 12.3 points per game on the season. Containing the versatile guard will be key part of Cornell’s game plan.

“Bilal’s a good all-around player – so you’ve got to respect his ability to do a lot of different things,” Donahue said. “He really passes well [and] I think he makes the other guys around him better. We’ll have our hands full there.”

As team Lafayette averages 64 points a game this season, shooting 41.5 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from 3-point range.

Aside from Abdullah, the Leopards have a balanced offensive attack, with five players averaging more than five points a game.

“They have guys who know their system. They spread the ball out, they share the ball really well, and a lot of guys can shoot the ball from [3-point range],” Donahue said.

For its own part, Cornell also brings a solid offensive game, averaging 66.2 points a game with five players averaging over eight points a game.

Freshman point guard Adam Gore – who earned his second consecutive Ivy League Rookie of the Week mention yesterday – has averaged 16 points a game, with 17 treys already on the season.

The Red’s leading rebounder is junior center Andrew Naeve (7.4 rebounds per game), who has recently had a hot hand offensively with 22 points in his last two games.

Cornell’s defense this season has shown significant improvement from last year. Opponents are averaging only 63.2 points per game compared to 76 points per game in 2004-2005. The Red have been particularly strong defending the 3, limiting opponents to only 23.9 percent from behind the line.

Cornell is coming off a heartbreaking, 73-71, loss to Hartford last Saturday. The Red won last year’s contest against Lafayette, 75-72.

Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Staff Writer