November 16, 2007

M. B-ball Goes Against Strong Ohio Frontcourt

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After fighting through some first-game jitters to earn a 87-83 victory over Lehigh last Saturday, the men’s basketball team will held west to face Ohio University tomorrow.
In last week’s contest, the Red (1-0) showed some signs of nervousness by not scoring for the first few possessions and almost losing the contest in the end due to Lehigh’s hectic full-court press.
“[Watching the tape] we saw a lot of good things,” said junior forward Alex Tyler. “We definitely saw where we need to improve. We went on a lot of stretches where we played fine on defense and offense and then we went through spurts where we looked a little slow, we didn’t work together as well as we can. … Overall, it was a good game. We got all the jitters out and now we are looking forward to the game.”
Cornell might not be able to get away with those droughts tomorrow as the squad faces a tough Ohio team that returns three starters. The Bobcats were picked to finish third in the Mid-American Conference (MAAC) and are coming off an impressive win over New Mexico State University, 80-72.
“I think it [the game] will be a good test,” said sophomore guard Ryan Wittman. “Ohio has some good inside players. It will be a good game to see where we are at and what we need to improve on.”
One area the team has been focusing on is defensive rebounding. Last weekend, the Red was dominated on the defensive glass, giving up 20 offensive rebounds. The team hopes to enter the weekend with the issue corrected.
“We have been focusing on defensive rebounding [in practice],” Wittman said. “They crash boards a lot. But if we [rebound defensively], we will be fine.”
That might be easier said than done with the Bobcats having all-conference performers in the frontcourt. While much of the preseason hype has been placed on the backcourt, this weekend the Red will rely on its frontcourt.
With the Bobcats’ top-2 players positioned in the frontcourt, players such as junior Alex Tyler will be called upon for production.
“We know that they have two really good big guys,” Tyler said. “They are not too tall but they are athletic … they were both All-MAAC last year. We have been focusing on not letting the ball get in deep down low and boxing out.”
The two players Tyler was referring to are senior center Leon Williams and junior forward Jerome Tillman, both of whom were selected to the preseason All-League team.
Last weekend, Cornell had balanced scoring with seven players scoring at least eight points. The team will look for that same balance this weekend. And the Red’s starting center, Tyler, figures to be the team’s top back-to-the-basket player.
“I like getting the ball down low,” Tyler said. “I think we need that, we need some type of balance. If there is nothing down low, they will be able to overplay our guards and they won’t get good looks. So, the more we get it down low, if they collapse even a little bit, our guards will hit the shot. And with the guards we have, they have to play me one-on-one, so that’s a pretty good situation from me.”
While the game presents a chance for the Red to get an early win over a tough opponent, it will also give the relatively new team a chance to build chemistry.
“We are coming together pretty well,” Tyler said. “We are not there yet. Right now, we are just getting to know the strengths of each other and learning where to put people in the best position where they can succeed.”
The game will also be a homecoming for junior forward Brian Kreefer, who grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio.