November 30, 2007

Men’s Basketball Faces Second In-State Rival

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For most Cornell students, that last hurdle before finals is a lingering paper, or test that has to get done before their focus can switch to final exams. For the men’s basketball team, that final hurdle is Colgate, who travels to Ithaca Saturday night for the 123rd matchup between the two squads.
On the surface, Cornell and Colgate seem to be two teams heading in opposite directions. While Cornell (4-1) has won its last three contests, Colgate (4-3) has dropped three straight. The Red is coming off a 73-68 win over another in-state rival in Binghamton last Tuesday. The Raiders, on the other hand, are coming off a 93-64 loss at Notre Dame.
Cornell has had flaws in each of its last three wins, though, struggling to put teams away, coming out of the gates slow, and giving up points in bunches at times. Colgate’s first two losses were by a combined six points, and Notre Dame is a perennially strong program.
Whatever the trends of the two teams shows proves, the Red knows it will be up against a tough team in the Raiders, if last years contest is any indication.
“Last year’s contest was really physical so we are prepared for a physical contest this time around,” said junior forward Brian Kreefer.
Cornell took that game 64-53, and knows the Raiders will bring much of the same intensity. Most teams this year have gone to small lineups against the Red’s guard-oriented offense, and the Raiders will probably be no different — by necessity.
The Raiders do not have much of a post presence and present a small team across the board. Their starting center, Peter Minchella, averages only 3.1 points per game and has played the least minutes of all the team’s starters, and two of its bench players.
Instead, the Raiders offense is centered on guard play mostly in the form of Kyle Roemer. Roemer has been the Raiders’ leading scorer in its last six contests, and is the only player who averages double digits scoring on the squad.
“[Roemer] can really shot the ball,” Kreefer said. “We have to make sure we keep him crowded and make him shoot off balance — just make sure he is not comfortable when he shoots.”
Indeed, Roemer is the one deep threat on the Raiders. He has nailed 19-of-46 3s while no one else on the team has even attempted more than 19.
“We must limit his opportunities and challenge all of his jump shots,” said junior guard Collin Robinson.
The Red will try and contain Roemer with a multitude of looks on the defensive end. Last Tuesday, against a Binghamton squad that ran a Princeton-style offense, Cornell switched between a 2-3 zone and a 1-3-1 zone to counter the Bearcats’ ball movement. The team only executed efficiently for stretches, however.
Cornell will trot out its zone at times against Colgate, but thinks shifting formations and styles will be the most effective strategy.
“We are going to use a man-to-man, half-court zone and a full-court zone press,” Kreefer said. “We want to use a little bit of everything against them”
Offensively, the Red has brought a balanced approach than the Raiders this season, with six players averaging 9.4 points per contest or more. Robinson said the team has noticed a tendency of Colgate’s defense that might help Cornell gameplan.
“They don’t help on the strong side penetration,” he said. “That leaves the lane open for penetration because teams know we have good shooters.”
But as the Red finish a four-game home stand, not to mention the last game before the break for finals, the players know that much of the importance of this game lies in gaining momentum.
“It would be big to get this win going into the break,” Robinson said. “The play is to build our confidence at home and take it on the road with us.”