February 3, 2011

Men’s Basketball Looks for Return to Form on Road

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Nearly one year ago to the day, the Cornell men’s basketball team easily beat Yale, 90-71, in front of a sold-out crowd at Newman Arena. It was the Red’s seventh straight win following a crushing five-point loss at then-No. 1 Kansas that brought unprecedented national attention to the Ivy League team. Two games later on Feb. 12 the Red was upset in blowout fashion by the struggling Penn Quakers. Routine victories like the one against the Bulldogs proved the hard-fought contest in Lawrence, Kan. was a sign of things to come.

The next time Cornell lost was in the Sweet 16 against Kentucky. It was the first Sweet 16 appearance for an Ivy League team since 1979.

Tonight, just 364 days later, the Red (4-14, 0-4 Ivy League) again takes the floor against Yale (9-9, 2-2) in New Haven, Conn. at 7 p.m. Cornell faces Brown (7-11, 0-4) tomorrow night in Providence, R.I. at 7 p.m. to wrap up its second consecutive road weekend.

The Red is still looking for its first Ivy League win coming off a disappointing opening weekend to conference play, which featured two losses to Dartmouth and Harvard by a combined 26 points. Cornell previously lost both ends of a home-and-home to Columbia, coming up short by four points in both contests.

“We’ve played lackluster games the last couple times out,” said sophomore forward Errick Peck, who is averaging 14.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game over his last 12 games. “We just have to keep looking forward.”

“Our mindset is that we have to get two wins here this weekend,” said junior guard and tri-captain Chris Wroblewski, who leads the team with 15 points and 5.7 assists per game. “Now every time we take the court it’s a must win. We’re practicing well, we just aren’t performing well.”

Cornell will need Wroblewski’s sharp shooting tonight to offset Yale’s inside production. The Bulldogs boast the Ivy League’s most dominant player, junior forward Greg Mangano, who averages a double-double.

“Yale has some big, tough players and we’ve had trouble getting rebounds this year,” Wroblewski said. “Getting second chances is something we’re going to have to do.”

James Jones, the longest tenured coach in the Ivy League, has led Yale to 10 consecutive top-half finishes in the League. Besides Mangano, the Bulldogs possess sophomore guard Austin Morgan and senior guard Porter Braswell, who average 12.7 and 10.6 points per game, respectively.

Even though Cornell has a game against Brown tomorrow, the nature of the Ivy League basketball schedule has the coaches and players focusing primarily on Yale. Fortunately for the Red, Brown holds an identical 0-4 Ivy record.

“We’re putting all our preparation into Yale,” Wroblewski said.

Senior forward Peter Sullivan leads the Bears with 13.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and is close to joining the Top-10 All-time scoring list for Brown.

In addition, sophomore forward Tucker Halpern, senior guard Garrett Leffelman and freshman guard Sean McGonagil all average more than nine points a game.

The Red ranks 17th nationally in 3-point field goals per game (8.7) and is the best Ivy League team defending the 3, holding opponents to 32.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Peck has been one of those Red players on the mark as of late, hitting 5-of-8 from downtown in last weekend’s games.

It’s been quite a resurgence for the sophomore after a poor start to the season followed high pre-season expectations.

“I’ve been spending a lot of extra time shooting before and after practice,” Peck said. “More than anything I think that helps me gain confidence as I get more and more comfortable with my shooting touch.”

Cornell will need Peck and its perimiter- shooting guards to get on track from outside to bounce back from its worst start to the Ivy League season in nine years.

Original Author: Quintin Schwab