January 27, 2011

Men’s Basketball Gears Up for Ivy Foes Dartmouth and Harvard

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The quest to turn around the Cornell men’s basketball team’s season begins this weekend as the Red hits the road for its first true conference weekend. Tonight the team faces Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H. at 7 p.m. and tomorrow the Red will play Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. at 6 p.m. — two teams Cornell swept just a season ago.

Cornell (4-12, 0-2 Ivy League) will see the two extremes of Ivy League basketball within 24 hours — one of which has glaring similarities to its own program. Dartmouth (4-12, 0-2), which is in the midst of a rebuilding process under first-year head coach Paul Cormier, posts identical overall and Ivy records as the Red. On the other hand, Tommy Amaker’s Harvard squad (13-3, 2-0) sits atop the Ivy League standings and is hoping for its first Ancient Eight title in school history.

Both the Red and the Green haven’t gotten off to ideal starts in the 2010-11 Ivy League season. Cornell lost two four-point contests in back-to-back games against Columbia, including one that snapped its 22-game home winning streak against Ivy opponents. Meanwhile, Harvard swept Dartmouth by a combined 24 points to open both teams’ Ivy League campaigns.

The Crimson owns three close respectable losses — to George Mason, Michigan and then-No. 4 Connecticut — all on the road. Harvard also has an impressive win against a Boston College squad led by former Cornell coach Steve Donahue.

Both the Red and the Green have lost to teams such as New Hampshire and Bucknell. Cornell and Dartmouth have combined to beat only one team that currently has a record above .500 —Delaware, who the Red beat in its season-opener Nov. 17.

Cornell will need the strong point of its team — the guards — to have big games this weekend in order to bounce back to a .500 Ivy League record. The Red has been shooting better as of late; after shooting under 40 percent from the field in five straight games, the team has shot above 40 percent in six of its last eight contests.

Sophomore forward Errick Peck, who has scored in double-figures in nine of his last ten games, is averaging 14.4 points per game in that span after shooting a mere 23 percent from the field during the first six games of the season.

Junior guard Andrew Ferry has made 25 3-pointers in the last six games, while junior guard and tri-captain Chris Wroblewski has posted at least six assists in 11 straight outings.

The Red must have those three players on top of their games to offset the productive frontcourts of its opponents, particularly Harvard. While the Green doesn’t offer a player averaging double-digit scoring, the Crimson has four, including 6-8, 240-pound Keith Wright. The junior forward leads Harvard with 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. The Red, which has allowed 12 of its last 13 opponents to shoot over 20 free throws, may have a difficult time matching Wright’s production down low.

The Red hopes to beat up on the team it has bullied the last three seasons tonight in order to carry momentum into tomorrow night’s tougher game. Momentum is something the Red — and the Green — has failed to develop all season long. Cornell has lost eleven of its past thirteen games, Dartmouth seven of eight. Meanwhile, Harvard has won six straight and is slowly building toward an Ivy League championship.

Original Author: Quintin Schwab