November 9, 2007

Men's Cagers Open Season

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The men’s basketball team will get its first chance to backup its preseason hype with its home contest against Patriot League foe Lehigh Saturday night. After being awarded numerous preseason accolades, the Red will have to actually show more than its paper roster this weekend, and it seems like the team is more than ready to do so.
“We are very anxious,” said junior forward Conor Mullen. “Other than the two scrimmages, we have been playing against each other for the past month.”
Due to the fact that the Red returns eight of its top-10 scorers, including two previous Ivy League Rookies of the Year, the team enters the season with a bull’s eye on its chest. In a season where the Red will be looked upon to answer all of its preseason hype, a standout performance will be a welcomed tone-setter.
“This game will set the tone for the season,” Dale said. “We will play this game as if it’s a championship.”
The game also gives the Red a chance for revenge. Last year, Cornell traveled to Bethlehem, Penn. only to lose to 90-71.
“As far as the team goes, we want revenge,” Dale said. “We didn’t come into the game focused. They jumped on us early, this time we will come out focused … we are concentrating on defense, sharing the ball and doing all the little things in order to win.”
One of the people who will play a role in seeking revenge is junior guard — and USC transfer — Collin Robinson. As a transfer last year, the Diamond Bar, Calif., native was not able to travel to watch the game last year. Instead, Robinson had to listen to the radio play-by-play call which, to say the least, wasn’t one of his most enjoyable listening experiences.
“I remember listening to the game and being frustrated,” Robinson said.
Robinson will have a chance to vent that frustration in the contest as he finally gets to suit up for the Red, after sitting out an entire year due to NCAA regulations. Robinson is one of five guards that seems to make a vaunted backcourt attack. The others include sophomore Ryan Wittman (last year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year), Louis Dale (All-Ivy Honorable Mention) and Geoff Reeves — whose play vastly improved nearing the end of last season. The team will also welcome back junior guard former Ivy League Rookie of the Year, junior Adam Gore, who had to sit out last season due to injury.
Despite the team’s offensive capabilities, Robinson identified that scoring should not be the team’s focal point.
“We have a bunch of offense, but we have to stop them,” Robinson said. “We have to create some turnovers and convert on them.”
Another factor in the contest will be rebounding, something that the team has struggled with in its early season workouts and scrimmages. The frontcourt will be expected to contribute through rebounding and additional scoring. Returning from injury is versatile forward senior Jason Hartford. Additional production will come from juniors Andre Wilkins and Brian Kreefer and sophomores Alex Tyler and Pete Reynolds. Junior Jason Battle can also be a factor, as he can fill four different positions and will provide much needed height when he does come in at the point guard position.
Lehigh comes into the contest standing as one the better defensive teams in the nation. In their last 150 contests, the Mountain Hawks were 49-14 while holding their counterparts to under 60 points. While the team specializes in defense, the Mountain Hawks were ranked the top three-point shooting team in the Patriot League. The team also returns 2007 Patriot League Rookie of the Year Marquis Hall, who averaged 11 points per game as a freshman — the third most by a Lehigh freshman. Despite Lehigh’s personnel, the Red comes into the game focused on internal improvement.
“We are just worried about going out there and making plays,” Mullen said.
For many, the game will be the first chance to see a team that has been predicted to reach the NCAA tournament. But for the team, it’s another chance to mesh together, despite its NCAA tournament aspirations.
“Right now, we are just focused on winning this game,” Robinson said. “I know it’s the generic answer, but it’s the truth.”