January 20, 2006

M. Hoops Set for Home Ivy Opener

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There has been no place like home for the men’s basketball team this season, as the Red (6-10, 1-1 Ivy) have posted a 4-1 record on its home court. The Red will look to continue this trend as it hosts Columbia tomorrow afternoon.

Cornell and the Lions (7-8, 0-2) both faced Penn and Princeton on the road last weekend to open conference play. Penn beat the New York teams by a combined 72-point margin, but the Red was able to salvage the weekend split with a 57-49 win over the Tigers, while the Lions suffered a 68-64 overtime loss against Princeton to remain winless in the league.

But with the rigorous Ivy League schedule looming, the Red has had little time to dwell on the mixed results from the first round of conference play.

“Our focus now is [on getting] ready for Columbia here and play our best basketball and see what happens,” said head coach Steve Donahue.

Senior Lenny Collins led the Red against the Tigers with 15 points and 10 rebounds, notching his second career double-double. His season average of 12.7 points per game is the best on the team, closely followed by freshman point guard Adam Gore’s 11.9 points per game. This duo is backed by junior Jason Hartford and senior Ryan Rourke, who are averaging 9.8 and 8.8 points per game, respectively. Junior Andrew Naeve is also contributing 7.1 points and a team-best 6.7 rebounds per game.

This balanced attack will take on a floundering Columbia team that has lost eight of its last 10 games after starting the 2005-06 season on a 5-0 streak. Sophomores John Baumann and Ben Nwachukwu are putting up 12.6 and 11.6 points per game, respectively, to pace the Lions. One place where Columbia has not struggled this season is in the paint, as it has averaged a plus-five margin in rebounds per game.

A key to a Cornell victory will be playing with composure at the end of each half, a problem that has plagued the team all season, most recently when the Red gave up a 17-4 run in the final 4:11 in a 79-65 loss to Long Beach State on Dec. 30. However, it is also an area in which Donahue has seen improvement recently.

“I think we closed out the Princeton game pretty well,” Donahue said. “I think with the teams we’re going to play in our league we’re more prepared than we ever [were] for those kinds of situations.”

Both the Red and the Lions have struggled in protecting the basketball this season, as Cornell is averaging nearly 15 turnovers per game and Columbia has given up 17 turnovers per contest.

However, Donahue feels that a schedule packed with teams far more athletic than Cornell – including No. 10 Washington, defending Patriot League Bucknell, and then-No. 16 Syracuse – helped prepare the Red for the competition amongst the Ancient Eight.

“Not many teams in our league would have won any of those games,” Donahue said. “[And] obviously when you can win at Princeton I think that helps your confidence.”

Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor