February 9, 2012

M. BASKETBALL | Cornell Hosts Ivy Foes at Home

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The Red looks to gain some leverage in the Ivy League this weekend.Sitting right in the middle of the Ivy League standings with eight games left in the regular season, the Red has an important weekend homestand ahead. The squad faces off against Yale — the second place Ivy team — on Friday and a struggling Brown team on Saturday.

The Red (8-12, 3-3 Ivy League) will host a Yale (15-5, 5-1) team that has won three straight and whose only conference loss so far was at the hands of No. 22 Harvard.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” said junior forward Eitan Chemerinski. “They have a lot of size, and we’re going to need to do a good job rebounding.”

Cornell is doing its best to prepare for the tough weekend ahead.

“They’re going to come out with a lot of energy to try to set the tone early,” said junior guard Johnathan Gray. “We’re expecting them to run mostly a half court game, and they’ll try to impose their game on us in our home court.”

Helping the Bulldogs set the tone that Gray mentioned will be the team’s center, Greg Mangano. The 6-10 senior is leading the Ivy League in both scoring and rebounding, with 19 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Even in the one conference loss to Harvard, Mangano put up 17 points, accounting for almost half of the team’s total scoring.

“He’s a great player,” Gray said. “We need to make other players beat us, and make sure all the guys are aware of where he is on the court at all times.”

The Bulldogs do have two other starters in double figures — Austin Morgan and Reggie Whillhite — but almost 52 of the team’s 71 points per game average comes from the starting five. The Red has used its depth to its advantage many times this season, and bench points will be a big factor against the Bulldogs tonight.

“We’re going to have to limit Mangano’s touches,” Chemerinski said. “Our big guys have to keep in front of him on the post and keep him off the glass.”

In last year’s matchup, the Red came away with a 68-55 win, even though Mangano scored 18 points and grabbed five boards. The team was able to keep the rest of the Bulldogs’ scorers relatively quiet, only allowing Morgan to score 11 points, something that they will need to repeat this year against an even more experienced squad.

On Saturday, the Red will try to take advantage of another team in the cellars of the Ivy League, just like it did against Dartmouth last weekend. The Bears (7-16, 1-5) have dropped 13 of their last 14 contests with Cornell, and come to Ithaca this year on a three game losing streak, looking to move past Columbia into sixth place in the conference.

According to Gray, the players understand that they are in no position to lose focus against a team like Brown.

“Being in the middle of the pack, we need to treat every game with the same aggression and try to continue our momentum,” he said.

The Red is relieved to be back at Newman Arena this weekend, even though it finally broke a streak of 10 straight road losses with the win over Dartmouth.

“It’s been hard for us on the road this year — so many close games coming down to the wire can be really deflating,” Gray said. “But we’re a resilient team and we try to learn something from each game. Saturday was a big stepping stone, it gave us a lot of confidence coming into this weekend.”

Original Author: Scott Chiusano