January 25, 2008

Red Completes Back-to-Back With Lions

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The men’s basketball team started the season aiming to be the best teams in the Ivy League. Tomorrow night, it can better its chances by proving itself to be the best Ivy League team in New York as the Red travels to face in-state rival Columbia. After earning a 70-64 win last weekend against the Lions, head coach Steve Donahue knows that the Red might have to play better this time on the road.
“It’s difficult to [sweep a season series] already,” Donahue said. “But what makes it more difficult is that Columbia is a good basketball team. They played us here down to the wire and I expect the game there to be the same way.”
In the last game, the Red started slow as Lions’ senior forward John Baumann and junior guard K.J. Matsui rushed Columbia to an early 14-4 lead. Led by the inside play of sophomore center Jeff Foote and intense defense, however, the Red went into halftime tied and mustered up enough good possessions in a very physical game to earn the victory. Despite allowing Baumann to have an impressive game — notching a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds — Cornell was able to come away with the win.
“[Baumann] is a first team All-League,” Donahue said. “You just have to make it more difficult for him. He shot the ball too well, but we did do a decent job at times.”[img_assist|nid=26846|title=Part the Red Sea|desc=Columbia senior Mack Montgomery (24) fights through two Cornell defenders in the Red’s 70-64 win last Saturday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Following Baumann’s impressive performance in the first match up between the Red and the Lions, Cornell will only make minor adjustments heading into the second contest.
“It’s really too late in the season to make any real major changes,” Donahue said. “It’s going to come down to who is going to be tougher, who is going to be more poised, who is going to be strong enough for the mental part of the game.”
And while the Red won’t deliberately make any major changes, it will have to deal with one; the absence of junior guard Collin Robinson.
Last week, Robinson left the team, leaving the Red without one of its top performers. However, the void does give players like junior Jason Battle and sophomore Geoff Reeves a chance to play minutes that Donahue had trouble spreading around early in the season with so many talented players.
“I feel fine with it,” Battle said. “I am usually the point guard on the scout team,” Battle said. “So handling the ball is nothing new. Obviously, I am not as much of a natural ball handler as Collin, but I feel I can get the job done.”
The Red enter the game — which will be aired on the YES Network — with a little bit more of a balanced attack. While sophomores Ryan Wittman (14.6 ppg) and Louis Dale (13.5 ppg) pace the Red in scoring, Foote has immensely helped the Red since becoming eligible after the end of fall semester.
The Lockwood, N.Y., native leads the team in rebounding with 5.4 per game and played a big role in last weekend’s win with 13 points, six rebounds and four blocks.
“[Foote] has been playing very well,” Battle said. “He gets a lot of attention when he has the ball and he has either been finishing strong or finding the open man. He has been making great plays for himself and the team.”
Foote, along with senior Jason Hartford, junior Brian Kreefer and sophomore Andre Wilkins will look to stop one of the Ivy League’s better frontcourt combinations of Baumann and senior Ben Nwachukwu.