February 23, 2007

With Season Closing, Red Faces Key Games

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Sitting two games back in the standings with just four to play, the men’s basketball team has its back against the wall. Facing road games against Yale and Brown this weekend, followed by a pair of home contests against Harvard and Dartmouth, the Red will have its work cut out for it to climb atop the league standing by season’s end.

“We know we need to win them all to have a chance,” said senior tri-captain Andrew Naeve. “We’re going to take it one game at a time and get prepared the right way for each one, and hope for some help.”
[img_assist|nid=21628|title=Face it|desc=Rookie Alex Tyler (top) and the men’s basketball team, who fell to Penn, 83-71, on Saturday, face Yale and Brown this weekend.|link=none|align=left|width=70|height=100]

After an 83-71 loss to Penn at the Palestra last Saturday night, Cornell (14-10, 7-3 Ivy) will look to rebound tonight against the Bulldogs (12-11, 8-2). The Red earned a thrilling, 60-59 victory over Yale just two weeks ago, going ahead in the final minute on a pair of free throws by freshman Ryan Wittman. This time around, the game will be held at the John J. Lee Amphitheater, regarded by some as the toughest place to play in the Ivy League. Cornell failing to earn a victory in New Haven, Conn., during the past five seasons.

“We haven’t won there since I’ve been here,” Naeve said. “But, we haven’t won at the Palestra either. I think it’s the most fun place to play because people are yelling nasty stuff at you, and when you make good plays you can quiet the crowd. I enjoy playing there.”

Yale currently sits in second place in the Ivy League standings, just one game back of Ivy-leader Penn. The Bulldogs are in need of a victory to keep pace with the Quakers, hoping for a showdown in the final weekend to decide the championship.

“It’s going to be a tremendous game,” said senior tri-captain Graham Dow. “They are right in the thick of things in the standings, and they need a win to keep the pressure on Penn. They seem to play better at home so we are going to have to elevate our game.”

The Bulldogs enter the game ranked third in the league in scoring with 69.5 points per game, while ranking fifth defensively, allowing 66 ppg. Yale is led at both ends of the floor by Eric Flato, as the junior guard stands fifth in the Ivies in scoring (15.5) and fourth in steals (1.87). Against Cornell two weeks ago, Flato scored 18 points on 4-of-10 shooting, including 2-for-3 from behind the arc.

“They run a lot of plays for him off screens, so we need to play good team defense,” Dow said. “You can’t stop a player of that caliber from scoring his share, but you need to make it difficult for him. Hopefully we throw fresh bodies at him and wear him down as the game goes along.”

Tomorrow night, the Red will travel to Providence, R.I., looking to earn a season sweep over Brown (9-16, 4-6). In the last matchup between these two squads, Cornell squeaked out a two-point victory, 61-59, on a night when it managed to shoot only 35.1 percent from the floor and an abysmal 22.2 percent from 3-point range. It will have to do a better job on Saturday, as the Bears have picked up their play of late, earning two straight victories over Harvard and Dartmouth.

“I think we need to be more aggressive with our man defense,” Naeve said. “I think we played a little passive last time. They run a system similar to the Princeton offense and the first time we didn’t know exactly what to expect. We should be able to handle them a lot better this time.”

Brown is led by junior guard Mark McAndrew, who ranks third in the league in scoring at 15.8 points per game. McAndrew netted 17 points in the last meeting between these two teams.

“They are a very different team this year than they were last year,” Dow said. “They don’t necessarily have new players, but they have new players that are contributing. Playing them for a second time will give us more familiarity with their style of play. That of course goes for them as well, so I expect a good challenge.”

While Cornell earned victories over both squads earlier this season, the team will try to repeat the performance on the road.

“Making adjustment is an important part of playing teams for the second time around,” Dow said. “But, our philosophy won’t change all that much. We need to get the ball inside to our bigs and move the ball around on the perimeter to get open looks. Most of all, we’ll win the game with a lot of energy plays. We’ve been doing that well in our victories this year.”