Cornell Daily Sun
November 30, 2010
The last time the Cornell men’s basketball team took the floor at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y, it was competing for a spot in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Although the stakes won’t be nearly as high this time around, a great deal of anticipation still surrounds the Red’s return to the Dome when it takes on No. 8 Syracuse at 7 p.m. this evening.
“To be honest, I’m looking forward to it,” said junior guard and tri-captain Chris Wroblewski. “In the past, I’ve personally been able to shoot pretty well there so hopefully that will continue. Our team has played well there, too. I know we’re used to [the Carrier Dome] so we’ll be more comfortable there.”
Wroblewski has totaled 34 points in three career games at the Dome and enters tonight’s contest leading Cornell in scoring with a 15.3 points per game average. While individual statistics are always nice, Wroblewski would far rather see the Red (2-4, 0-0 Ivy) snap its current three-game losing streak with a win tonight — something that the team has done just once in 20 total appearances at the Dome.
While its only victory came against Saint Francis University in the 2005-06 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, the Red has remained competitive in its most recent efforts at the Carrier Dome. The team’s 62-45 Sweet Sixteen loss to the No. 1 seed Kentucky Wildcats last March was far more respectable than the final score would reveal — Cornell was down just six with a little over five minutes to play — and its last two meetings with the host Orange were largely undecided until the second half.
Nonetheless, Cornell will have its hands full with a Syracuse (6-0, 0-0 Big East) squad that is ranked No. 8 in this week’s AP poll and has beaten the Red 32 consecutive times.
Leading the way for the Orange this season has been the dynamic play of junior forward Kris Joseph and junior point guard Scoop Jardine. Joseph enters tonight’s game leading Syracuse in scoring with 14.3 points per game. Jardine is just behind him with 12.8 points per contest and has added seven assists per game — good for eighth in the nation.
Most of the damage caused by Joseph and Jardine comes in the transition game, as the Orange often exerts its length and athleticism against its foes with quick buckets off rebounds and turnovers.
“We have to do a good job of getting back in transition,” said Red head coach Bill Courtney. “[Jardine] is the driver of that car in transition.”
So how does one stop such a skilled driver?
“It’s going to be tough,” Wroblewski said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a task for any single person. As a team, we’re going to have to have all five guys paying attention to [Jardine] when he has a ball.”
The speedy Jardine and athletic Joseph will not be the only Syracuse players that Cornell will have its hands full with tonight, as senior forward Rick Jackson helps to balance out the Orange attack with a more physical approach in the frontcourt. Jackson has averaged a double-double in 2010-11, recording 12 points and 13 rebounds per game.
“[Jackson] is a super offensive rebounder,” Courtney said. “We have to do a good job of putting a body on him and keeping him off the glass.”
The combination of Joseph, Jardine and Jackson has resulted in an undefeated start to the season for the Orange. However, the team’s last three decisions have come by four points or fewer, and Syracuse has struggled to shoot at a high percentage from time to time. In fact, the Orange’s problems at times this season have caused head coach Jim Boeheim to emphatically claim that his team is not as good as people think and is too highly rated.
If Cornell is to add more fuel to Boeheim’s fire, it will need to play better than it has in its first six games.
“I think we just need to play a little bit better,” Courtney said. “As we continue to get better we will get some wins. We played pretty well [against Boston University], but we just ran into a guy who had a career night. We didn’t shoot the ball that well and we missed a lot of open shots. If we play a little better, we will be in much better shape.”
Wroblewski agrees with his coach, and stated that the team’s problems thus far have stemmed from its inconsistent shooting performances.
“We’ve had a lot of open looks and the shots just aren’t falling,” Wroblewski said. “We can’t get discouraged by that. I think as the year goes on we’re going to get more comfortable playing with each other and those shots are going to fall.”
With a game against a top-10 team looming, tonight is as a good a time as any for the shots to start to fall. In addition to Wroblewski, junior guard Andrew Ferry will be a key to the Red’s shooting success. Ferry is averaging 10.2 points per game and is coming off a career-high 22 points on 6-of-12 3-point shooting in Cornell’s most recent loss to Boston University.
While the backcourt is poised to fill the box score against the Orange, the Red’s frontcourt is a different story. After scoring 42 points in the team’s first three games and averaging just fewer than 10 points per contest, senior forward and tri-captain Aaron Osgood will be sidelined tonight with an MCL injury. His absence will be significant as the team tries to contain Jackson in the paint. Senior forward and tri-captain Adam Wire will attempt to step up in Osgood’s place and, if his 12-point, 9-rebound performance against Boston University is any indication, he may be up for the job.
Regardless of whether Cornell prevails tonight or not, this evening’s matchup with Syracuse will pay big dividends for the Red later in the season.
“We have a young, inexperienced team and to play teams like Syracuse — which pose more problems ... than your typical Ivy League team — is going to help prepare us a lot [for the Ivy League season],” Wroblewski said.