January 18, 2008

M. Hoops Splits Over Break, Begins Ivy Play

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The men’s basketball team did not have to take any classes during this past vacation, but the squad was still put to the test in eight contests, including one against nationally ranked Duke. The Red started the strectch with three straight losses, falling to Colgate, Bucknell and Syracuse. The Red was able to win four of the next five — with the only loss being the Duke contest — to finish the stretch with a .500 as it enters Ivy League play this weekened.
“I think we played well over the break,” said junior forward Jason Battle. “We played against some great competition and improved on defense.”
One of the tougher losses of the break came against Colgate, a home contest in which the team held a 49-41 lead with under 10 minutes to play. Unfortunately for the Red, the Raiders’ Kyle Roamer hit a pair of 3-pointers that keyed a Raiders’ run that got them ahead of the Red for good. Even four 3-pointers in the last 43 seconds couldn’t help the Red avoid a 76-73 defeat.
After an 18-day strech with no games, the Red traveled to Bucknell and dropped the game, 88-75.
“We probably entered the game a little bit rusty,” Battle said. “And Bucknell is just a good team and they took advantage of it.”
It was 7-0 junior center Jeff Foote’s first contest and he did not dissapoint. In 21 minutes, Foote scored 10 point, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked four shots.
The Red couldn’t halt the losing streak in its next contest as it traveled to the Carrier Dome to take on the Syracuse Orange. The Orange’s frontcourt dominance proved to be a big factor as the Red lost the rebounding advantage, 52-37.
The Red would finally stop the losing run defeating Stony Brook and Quinnipiac on the road. An impressive defensive effort and standout second half shooting — 59 percent during the final stanza — keyed the Red’s 66-50 win over Stony Brook.
The Red’s following win over Quinnipiac — which aired on the MSG network — tested the Red’s toughness as the team had to force overtime to earn the victory. Down by nine with 2:19 on the clock, the Red stormed back to force overtime capped by junior Collin Robinson’s game-tying layup with 17 seconds left. The squad squeaked away with the win, 66-64.
In its biggest game of the season — and in the team’s recent history— the Red traveled to Durham, N.C., on Jan. 6 to face the Duke Blue Devils. For Battle, the contest was a homecoming as the Applied Economics and Management major is from Wilmington.
“It was great to go back home,” Battle said. “And then to play in one of the greatest gyms in college hoops with my family and friends there was great.”
The Red were impressive in the loss to the then No. 8 Blue Devils, leading the contest by as many as three points with 6:25 left on the clock in the first half. However, Duke senior DeMarcus Nelson proved to be too much for the Red as he finished with a game-high 23 points in the 81-67 loss.
The Red finished the stretch with two easy games, a 91-46 victory over Div. III’s Alvernia College and a 64-33 win over NJIT, a team that has yet to win a game on the season.
This Saturday, the Red will hope that its non-conference schedule will have it prepped for Ivy League play when it hosts the Columbia Lions.
“I think by playing good competition we learned that we have to go out there and always play tough,” Battle said. “We learned that we have to go out there and play hard every possesion.”
Columbia is one of the better Ivy League team’s and come to Ithaca with a 7-8 record.
The Lions enter the contest with a stuggling offense. Only averaging .396 shooting on the season. However, the Lions do feature senior forward John Baumann, arguably the league’s best frontcourt player who averages 14.6 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game. The Lions are picked to finish fourth in the league and have four seniors in their starting lineup.