January 28, 2010

Men’s B-Ball Careful Not to Underestimate Dartmouth

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The last time these two teams met in Newman Arena, Cornell squandered a 19-point second half lead. Ultimately, the Red prevailed over Dartmouth, 79-76, in a double overtime Valentine’s Day victory last season. The Green was led by the 2008-09 Ivy League Player of the Year, Alex Barnett, whose graduation last spring has left a considerable void in Dartmouth’s lineup. The LAB Era, which fans from Hanover, N.H., refer to as Life After Barnett, has not been kind to the Green. Cornell will host Dartmouth this evening with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m.

Picked to finish in the basement in the Preseason Ivy League Media Poll, the Green (4-12, 0-2 Ivy) dropped its first two Ivy League contests to Harvard earlier this month. Cornell (16-3, 2-0 Ivy) has enjoyed the upper hand as of late, capturing 11 of the last 12 meetings, including eight straight victories. Despite the Green’s recent struggles and tomorrow’s matchup against undefeated Harvard, senior guard Louis Dale will not overlook tonight’s opponent.

“I don’t think it’s hard [to focus on one game at a time] because our team has kind of been through this over the past few years,” Dale said. “We’ve learned that every game is tough and we have to come out and play hard every night. We just need to come out and focus on our game.”

“They have a bunch of guys who can drive, score for themselves and make big plays,” Dale added. “We’re not really concentrating on [stopping] one person as much as we are the whole team and limiting penetration.”

Dartmouth’s offensive woes have been on display this season, as the team does not sport a single double-digit scorer. Senior guard Robby Pride paces the team with 8.2 points per game and has demonstrated a hot hand of late, averaging 17.0 points in the last two tilts.

One key matchup will be Cornell’s shooting from beyond the arc versus Dartmouth’s perimeter defense. This will be strength pitted against strength as Cornell ranks as the best 3-point shooting team in the Ivy League (.418) and Dartmouth ranks as the best defense against 3-point shooting (.288).

“I think we’re just going to focus on running our offense and playing basketball like we’ve been doing,” Dale said. “If they stop one option, then we have lots of other options that we can go to. We can always go inside and play that way.”

The Green’s prowess on the perimeter may be a little deceptive as teams forgo long-range shots for easy inside buckets against the Green’s weak interior defense. Dartmouth ranks last in the Ancient Eight in rebounding. Senior skyscraper Jeff Foote, 7-0 and 265 pounds, should enjoy a considerable size advantage over Dartmouth’s junior center, Clive Weeden, who is listed at 6-9 and 220 pounds.

Dartmouth has played better basketball since New Year’s Day with a 2-2 record this month, including a 49-43 home win over Bucknell on Jan. 4. Coincidentally, it was at Bucknell earlier this season the Red struggled to put away the Bison, but ultimately won in overtime, 104-98.

Dartmouth interim head coach Mark Graupe assumed leadership on Jan. 8, replacing his embattled predecessor Terry Dunn. Dunn resigned after several reports surfaced alleging the existence of a petition signed by the Dartmouth players, in which they refuse to continue playing under Dunn. While the University and Athletic Department unequivocally deny these allegations, Dunn’s failure to complete his sixth season at the helm in Hanover has undeniably added to the squad’s on court woes.

This weekend might prove to be of historical significance to the Cornell basketball program. During the 1950-51 season, the Red spent three weeks in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, ascending as high as No. 14 on Jan. 3, 1951. Some experts are speculating that No. 27 Cornell, only two places away from being officially ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Poll, might crack the top 25 for the first time in program history. Of course, the Red must first succeed in polishing off the Green and the Crimson from Cambridge.

However, the opportunity for national ranking and recognition does not come around often in the Ivy League. Cornell will be looking forward to parlaying the national acclaim it received for playing the No. 1-ranked Kansas Jayhawks tough on the road, along with a top 25 rating into loftier seeding for March Madness.

Original Author: Matthew Manacher