January 19, 2007

Basketball Teams Seek Wins in Big Apple

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After compiling a 3-1 record during its recent homestand, the men’s basketball team must pack up and head to New York City for a game tomorrow afternoon against Columbia (10-6, 1-1 Ivy).

Boasting identical 1-1 Ivy League records, the matchup will serve as a duel between two squads looking to jump out to an early advantage in the quest for a league title.

[img_assist|nid=20801|title=Air express|desc=Freshman point guard Louis Dale (12) will lead the Cornell offense against Columbia tomorrow in New York City.|link=node|align=left|width=70|height=100]

“This game is critical,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “Even though it’s still early, we feel like we have to win to stay in the race.”

Freshman Ryan Wittman, the Red’s leading scorer, echoed his coach’s sentiment.

“Obviously we want to win every game,” he said. “We know that if we want to win the league, we can’t afford to lose many games, so this one is extremely important.”

The match up brings together two young teams in similar situations, both having dropped home games to defending league champion Penn before defeating Princeton last weekend.

Tomorrow’s game will mark the first time the Red has played on the road in over two weeks. Under Donahue, the Red have been an above average road team, going 5-2 against the Ivies a season ago.

“We are a good road team,” Donahue said. “We have played solid basketball on the road and if anything I wish we would play more consistently at home. Either way, we are going to have to play half our games on the road, so we have to prepare the same way all the time.”

Columbia comes into the game led by the inside play of juniors John Baumann and Ben Nwachuku, with both averaging more than 10 points and five rebounds a game.

“They rely on their post play,” Donahue said. “They play really physical and if we want to win we are going to have to match that physicality.”

When struggling on the inside, the Lions have gone to a pair of freshman guards — Patrick Foley and Niko Scott — to provide a more balanced offense.

“[Those guys] add another dimension to their offense,” Donahue said. “We have to watch for them making some shots from the outside.”

And while each team comes into the game relying on strong cores of talented young players — Columbia, in fact, does not have a single senior on its squad — Donahue feels his upperclassmen, especially senior tri-captains Graham Dow and Andrew Naeve, provide an advantage.

“Our seniors have been through so much and that will be huge for us,” Donahue said. “They have experienced so many different situations in their four years.”

Donahue is especially satisfied with Dow’s play coming back from hip surgery last spring to help guide the younger Red squad.

“Graham has been huge for us in managing the game,” Donahue said. “Now that he is truly 100 percent, we can rely on him to do a lot of different things for us.”