Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Bona Venture Previews St. Bona at Cornell

The Bona Venture
November 19, 2010

The men's basketball team takes its 1-1 record east across New York's Southern Tier this weekend with games at Cornell and Binghamton.

Today, the Bonnies (1-1) are in Ithaca for a 7 p.m. matchup with three-time defending Ivy League champion Cornell (2-1), before heading to Binghamton for a 2 p.m. Sunday tilt with the Bearcats (1-1).

The Big Red lost four starters from last year's squad, which went 29-5 (13-3), won NCAA Tournament games against Temple and Wisconsin - before falling to top-seeded Kentucky in an East Regional semifinal - and finished No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

Gone are forward Ryan Wittman, 2009-10 Ivy League Player of the Year; 7-foot center Jeff Foote, a transfer from Bonaventure and last year's Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year; guard Louis Dale, 2007-08 Ivy League Player of the Year; and coach Steve Donahue, who left to take the head job at Boston College after 10 seasons with Cornell.

Junior guard Chris Wroblewski, the Big Red's lone returning starter, shot 45.5 percent from beyond the three-point line and dished out 102 assists last season - both good for fourth in the Ivy League - but missed the Big Red's first two games this season due to injuries.

Cornell was the top three-point shooting team in the country last season, hitting 43.3 percent of their shots from downtown.

Michael Davenport said the Bonnies hope to prevent Cornell from shooting threes by forcing them into the paint.

"Watching them on film, they can knock it down," the junior guard said. "They shoot real deep … 23 to 24 feet. "They're probably one of the best shooting teams in the country, so it's just a matter of running them off of the three-point line (and) putting them in uncomfortable situations."

While the Bonnies are shooting 7-for-34 (.206) from deep this season, Davenport said he expects the team's shooters will heat up soon.

"It's (all) about the guards being confident with their shots," he said. "It's not like we're forcing the issue or anything - they're clean, good looks - it's just about knocking them down and being confident."

The Big Red lead the all-time series with Bonnies, 8-3, including a win in the teams' most recent meeting, 58-54, on Dec. 4, 2004.

Binghamton, as America East Conference champions after a 23-win season, joined Cornell in the 2009 NCAA Tournament only to fall victim to scandal last year.

The Bearcats limped to a 13-18 (8-8) record last year in wake of former coach Kevin Broadus' resignation, athletic director Joel Thirer's reassignment and six players' dismissals from the team.

Senior forward Greer Wright was a first-team all-conference selection last season and was one of two players in America East to finish in the league's top 10 in points per game (15.0), assists per game (3.2), steals per game (1.2), field-goal percentage (43.4 percent) and minutes per game (33.4).

The Bonnies lead the all-time series with the Bearcats, 2-1, including a 66-40 home win last November.

The Brown and White enter the weekend at .500 after splitting their first two games of the season last week, losing 80-70 at Canisius Friday before defeating Arkansas-Little Rock, 77-64, at home Sunday.

The Bonnies jumped out to a 13-6 lead on Canisius last Friday night in Buffalo, but the Griffins chipped away at the deficit before taking a 37-33 halftime lead. Canisius opened the second half on a 8-2 run, and the Bonnies never came within fewer than four points the rest of the game.

Junior forward Andrew Nicholson led all scorers with 23 points, while Davenport tied a career high with 19 points.

A physical affair resulted in 45 fouls, including 25 against the Bonnies. Senior guard Ogo Adegboye and freshman guard Matthew Wright both fouled out.

Julius Coles led the Griffins with 21 points, and Gaby Belardo added 19.

The Bonnies scored the first six points, led by as many as 20 and built a 39-25 halftime lead, and cruised to a 13-point win in their home opener Sunday afternoon.

Nicholson led the way with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Davenport and Adegboye each scored 17. Alex Garcia-Mendoza led the Trojans with 21.

Both teams shot 3-for-17 from beyond the arc.

Through the first two games, Nicholson (24 points per game) and Davenport (18 ppg) have each topped their scoring averages from last season (16.4 and 8.4, respectively).

Davenport said if the Bonnies play with more enthusiasm this weekend, it doesn't necessarily matter how well they shoot.

"At Canisius we were kind of flat, (but) Sunday we came out more energetic (and) focused … we were just having fun," he said. "At Canisius we shot 50 percent; Sunday we shot 45 percent, but at Canisius we lost. The difference … is energy level. If we come out this weekend … with the same energy and intensity that we had Sunday, we'll come out with two W's this weekend."

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