December 5, 2008

Red Hopes Undefeated Gophers Aren’t Golden

Print More

For the second time in one week, the men’s basketball team will get a chance at ruining a perfect season when it faces Minnesota tomorrow at Williams Arena, also known as “The Barn.”
The Red will look to hand the Gophers their first loss of the season after falling short against undefeated Syracuse, 88-78.
Cornell is led by as many as 16 points during the first half but collapsed in the second half as the Orange shot 75 percent from the field to retake the lead.
“We all just want to come out with a little more toughness and just finish games,” said junior forward Alex Tyler. “We’ve had games with opportunities to put teams away and we haven’t been able to do that. We want to get over that hump and actually win a couple of those games.”
Cornell (4-4) is in the midst of a scheduling gauntlet of challenging non-conference matchups. The Red is coming off consecutive road losses to Indiana and Syracuse and now must travel to Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers (7-0), which are off to their best start since the 1976-77 season.
“We’ve been really busy with school and missing class and everything, but we’re doing well with it,” Tyler said of the team’s schedule. “It’s taken a little bit of a toll.”[img_assist|nid=34041|title=Short people got no reason|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
As has been the trend this season, junior forward Ryan Wittman led the team with 33 points against Syracuse, including 9-of-19 3-pointers. Wittman has been the team’s high scorer in six of the its eight games so far, but the players are confident that when senior point guard and reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Louis Dale returns from a hamstring injury, the offense will be able to distribute the ball better and avoid relying too heavily on one player.
“We want to be a balanced team and when [Wittman] starts getting a lot of attention we should be able to get open looks other places,” Tyler said. “…When [Dale] comes back, I think he’ll help us a lot with that.”
The offense will have to be on its game against the staunch Gopher defense — Minnesota is holding opposing teams to just 62 points per game on a 38.7 shooting percentage. Cornell, which generated most of its offense from the perimeter against the Orange, has had trouble penetrating defenses of the athletic non-conference teams it has been up against.
“One of the big things we have to work on is getting dribble penetration, getting inside, making the defense collapse a little bit and there’ll be a lot more open shots,” Tyler said.
The Gophers are led by junior guard Lawrence Westbrook’s 14 points per game. Westbrook is Minnesota’s only player averaging in double figures. Sophomore guard Blake Hoffarber is the next-best scoring threat, with 9.7 points per game.
The Red is coming off a solid rebounding performance against Syracuse and will need to out-rebound the home team despite the Gophers’ height advantage — Minnesota has five players over 6-7.
“We’re starting to come together a lot better now, if we could come out against Minnesota and get a win, that’d be great for us,” Tyler said.