By Quintin Schwab
The Cornell men’s basketball team plays its second home game of the fall semester tonight at 7 p.m. against St. Bonaventure at Newman Arena. Missing the chance to play against their former walk-on Jeff Foote ’10 by one year, the Bonnies are the next opponent for the new-look Red, which defeated Delaware, 75-61, in its home-opener on Wednesday night.
Cornell (2-1, 0-0 Ivy), down Foote and seven other graduated players from last year’s Sweet 16 team, will continue to form its 2010-11 identity against an athletic St. Bonaventure squad. The Bonnies (1-1, 0-0 Atlantic 10) offer junior forward and NBA prospect Andrew Nicholson, who had 25 points and 11 rebounds in his team’s most recent outing, a 77-64 victory Sunday against Arkansas Little-Rock.
“He’s obviously a really good player,” said first-year Cornell head coach Bill Courtney. “He’s hard to guard one-on-one, so we’re going to give him a lot of attention and try to limit his space.”
For much of the game, Nicholson will most likely be matched up against senior forward and tri-captain Aaron Osgood –– the Red’s leading scorer with 14 points per game this season ––who struggled getting shots up against Delaware’s forwards.
St. Bonaventure possesses two other players averaging in double-figure on the season in junior guard Michael Davenport and senior guard Ogo Adegboye. Cornell will look to counter the potent duo of the Bonnies with its own backcourt, which has accounted for nearly 75 percent of the Red’s scoring thus far.
Junior guard and tri-captain Chris Wroblewski, the only returning starter for the Red, shook off a slow start to net 13 points –– leading Cornell scorers along with senior guard Max Groebe –– coming off the bench in his season debut Wednesday night.
“Obviously I’m a little out of shape having not done anything for two-and-a-half weeks,” Wroblewski said about his first action in 2010-11, which was delayed due to a left ankle injury. “I really haven’t gotten a chance to come together with the other guys yet, either.”
Wroblewski admitted that his ineffective first half against the Blue Hens, which included two turnovers in his first four minutes, resulted from trying to do too much.
“[Against St. Bonaventure], I have to let the game come to me rather than force things ––like I did in the second half [against Delaware],” he said.
“Chris was a big influence for us on the floor, particularly down the stretch,” Courtney said. “He was a little rusty to start, but he ended up hitting some big shots and we know he’ll do a lot of that the rest of the season.”
Although the Red did manage a 42 percent mark from the perimeter in Wednesday’s contest –– including 3-of-3 from senior guard Anthony Gatlin, who also completed a four-point play midway through the second half on a successful bank-shot –– Cornell has shot only 32 percent from beyond the arc in its first three games. That figure may drop against a St. Bonaventure defense that held its first two opponents to 25 percent from 3-point range.
Perhaps more worrisome is the Red’s free-throw shooting: only 66 percent this season. “It’s not necessarily a concert yet,” Courtney said. “We shoot them well in practice and we’re confident that will start to translate to games. I think our overall shooting hasn’t been great yet.”
In fact, Cornell had a lower shooting mark than Delaware at 42.6 percent compared to 45.3 percent. However, the Red was able to neutralize the guards of the Blue Hens by forcing 15 turnovers, and must do so again tonight to lessen Nicholson’s impact.
“Since we had the game [Wednesday night], we haven’t had a ton of time to scout St. Bonaventure,” Wroblewski said. “But they have many athletic players and pose problems similar to Delaware.”
“It’s always the same when we play a team with quick guards,” Courtney said. “We have to keep them out of the lane, can’t let them get inside our defense, contest their shots, and get back in transition.”
After the matchup against the Bonnies –– which will be the first between the two clubs since a 58-54 Red victory in Dec. 2004 –– Cornell begins a five-game road swing at Lehigh on Monday. Since five of the remaining 11 home games after tonight are during Winter Break, many Cornell students may not see the Red in action again until mid-February, when it hosts four consecutive Ivy League contests.