January 23, 2009

Lions Head to Newman

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Looking to extend its school-record home winning streak to 15 games, the men’s basketball team will welcome Columbia to Newman Arena at 4 p.m. tomorrow. Cornell dispatched the Lions in both teams’ Ivy League openers last weekend, 71-59, and should be further aided by returning to Newman Arena, where the Red has played exceptionally well of late.
At home this season, Cornell (11-6, 1-0 Ivy League) has shot .526 from the field and .500 from long distance while limiting opponents to .380 and .304, respectively. The Red has outscored its opponents by nearly 20 points on its home turf.
“You always want to protect your home court, that’s the one thing that you want to keep is that perfect home court record,” said senior guard Jason Battle. “I think we probably do play just a little bit better at home.”
In addition to the overall improvement in stats at home, the Red will also be boosted by the return of Newman Nation. While Cornell has played six home games so far this season, only one, a 79-69 win over the University of South Dakota, was played while students were on-campus; the rest were over winter break.[img_assist|nid=34348|title=On point|desc=Junior guard Louis Dale’s 19 points led the Red in scoring last week against the Lions.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“We definitely are [excited to play in front of the home crowd].” Battle said. “We’ve only had one other home game where students have been around, it should be a good time.”
Despite the lopsided statistics for the Red at home, the team should not be overly confident heading into the game. Cornell won last week’s game by 12 points, but the Lions (5-10, 0-1) outplayed the Red during the first half of that game and took a five-point lead into the intermission. Columbia’s defense, the traditional strength of its team, stifled Cornell’s shooters, holding the Red to .333 from the field and just 23 points at the half.
“Our offense became a little stagnant, it felt,” Battle said. “One of our strengths is moving the ball.”
But the players stressed quick ball movement all week, and should be ready to come out firing in their second Ivy League matchup of the season.
“I think we’ll be able to learn from last week and come out prepared,” said junior forward Alex Tyler.
Junior guard Niko Scott powered Columbia’s offense with 21 points and eight rebounds last weekend. Junior guard Patrick Foley is the Lions’ highest scoring player on the season, averaging 12.9 points per game. Foley is complemented by two of the Ivy League’s most prolific rebounders: Senior forward Jason Miller, with 6.9 rebounds per game, nearly half of those coming on the offensive end, and sophomore forward Asenso Ampim with 6.7.
Senior center Jeff Foote is the only Cornell player averaging more than five boards per game, with 6.8, but the Red still managed to out-rebound the Lions 44-41 last weekend. And although the Lions managed 17 offensive boards, they only capitalized for three second-chance points.