February 27, 2009

Men’s Basketball on the Road at Dartmouth, Harvard

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The men’s basketball team can clinch at least a share of its second straight Ivy title this weekend as it travels to Dartmouth and Harvard. With four games to go, Cornell holds a two game lead over Columbia, Princeton and Dartmouth. Two wins this weekend would wrap up a share of the championship. A weekend sweep combined with a loss from all of the second place teams would secure an outright title. [img_assist|nid=35607|title=Forget it|desc=Senior Jeff Foote and men’s basketball hope up to lock in the Ivy League title this weekend at Dartmouth, Harvard.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Coming off a split weekend against Brown and Yale, Cornell (18-8, 8-2 Ivy) is looking to finish a season sweep of both Dartmouth (8-16, 6-4) and Harvard (11-13, 3-7). Two weeks ago, when the Red welcomed the Green and the Crimson to Ithaca, the two wins extended Cornell’s home win streak to 19 games.
But Cornell is on the road this weekend, where it has lost its only two Ivy games this year. The squad will face off against Dartmouth tonight in New Hanover, N.H. The Green is the only Ivy squad to lose to the Red by less than double digits. In fact, Dartmouth stormed back from a 19-point deficit to take Cornell to double overtime where the Red emerged 79-76.
Dartmouth, which has emerged this year behind star Alex Barnett, will try to exploit Cornell’s defense much in the same way it did two weekends ago. Donahue said his team got taken out of its defensive mindset in the second half allowing the Green to climb back into the game. He took his team back to basics in practice the next week, going over defensive drills the team hadn’t done since October.
It will most likely take this fundamental team defense to stop Barnett tonight, who dropped 22 on the Red last time out. Although he only shot 10-for-27 — nearly 40 percent of his team’s shots — from the floor, Barnett will certainly be the focal point of the Green’s offense. He leads his team in virtually every category and has bettered his 3-point shooting this year, according to Donahue, making him more of a threat. His 21.2 points per game in Ivy play are nearly four points ahead of second-place Jeremy Linn of Harvard. He is also fifth in rebounding in conference action.
Last time out against Dartmouth, Cornell used a small lineup fueled by guards Louis Dale, a junior and freshman Chris Wroblewski, to get more ball handlers on the court. The Red’s starting frontcourt — senior Jeff Foote and junior Alex Tyler — struggled from the floor throughout the Dartmouth matchup. The Red will have to address these issues going into the contest this evening.
Tomorrow, Cornell will travel to Harvard. While Dartmouth presents a strong front line with the multi-talented Barnett, Harvard boasts a seasoned backcourt with Jeremy Lin and Drew Housman. This combination teamed up for 27 points on 10-for-16 shooting last time out against Cornell.
But it was a weak Harvard defense that bent and broke on the way to a Cornell victory. The Red put up 96 points — the team’s second biggest output of the season — en route to victory. This was not an aberration for the Crimson. On the season, Harvard has allowed opponents to shoot 46 percent from the floor, including 51 percent from behind the arc. The Crimson has allowed over 70 points per game in Ivy play, most in the league, and trails the Ancient eight in field goal defense as well.
Alternatively, Cornell has paced the conference in offense, putting up 75.7 points per game, more than 10 more than second-place Penn. The Red also leads the Ancient Eight in field goal percentage, free throw percentage and field goal defense. On paper, it might seem like a case of the League’s best offense against the League’s worst defense, but Harvard’s early season win over then-No. 17 Boston College, revealed the talent of the squad. Additionally, tomorrow will be senior night for Harvard, providing the squad with extra motivation.
Regardless, the facts about the standings do not change. Two wins and Cornell is at least a co-Ivy League champion for the second year in a row, something not seen on the East Hill since the Ancient Eight’s inception in 1954.