Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Courtney on 'Cuse

About to head out for the Carrier Dome, where Cornell (2-4) plays No. 8 Syracuse (6-0) tonight in their annual men's basketball non-conference matchup. Syracuse has won 32 straight games in the series, and barring something unforseen, will make it 33 in a row this evening.

As far as Cornell's concerned, there are realistic goals to set for both tonight's game and Saturday's visit to No. 15 Minnesota. Progress will be measured in small ways, but the team's disappointing showing at Seton Hall a couple weeks ago certainly isn't something this Big Red team can call a standard against BCS opponents. Far from it.

On that day, the Hall jumped out to an early lead, and Cornell never even offered a whiff of an answering run, or strung together a positive run of possessions. The team played scared, and admitted so afterward. Without Chris Wroblewski on the floor, and with all the new components, it was forgiveable if not acceptable.

So what to expect out of tonight's game? First, the rebounding totals need to be respectable. That doesn't mean Cornell has the edge on the boards, but that the rebounding differential isn't north of -6 or even -8. If it gets to -12 or so, watch out. Second, when Cornell attacks Syracuse's zone, the foul line jumper and hi-low game is important. Offense from those two spots can't be non-existent, or Syracuse will just unload its long-armed wings on Cornell's three-point shooters. Pump fakes, good decisions, toughness with the ball - all are incredibly important tonight for the Big Red. Third, I think Errick Peck gets a starting nod again. This is a good spot for him to forget about the first six games, play loose and just throw his body around both on the glass and defensively. Besides, who else does Cornell have to check Kris Joseph? The bet here is Peck sees a lot of time on the 6-7 SF; Groebe likely comes off the bench. Fourth, foul trouble concerns in a game like this are real. Cornell's already fouling at a high clip, and with Aaron Osgood unavailable, it leaves a rotation of Mark Coury, Adam Wire, Errick Peck, Anthony Gatlin and Josh Figini as the bigs. Wire and Coury are easily the most physical players for Cornell; they both need to stay on the floor tonight.

For a team that won 29 of 34 games last year, have you wondered how this group is handling a 2-4 start? Bill Courtney said he's seen nothing concerning from the group in terms of how they're reacting to a string of difficult losses.

"It's always difficult when you're not seeing tangible results from your efforts," he said. "After watching the film from Saturday's game, we realized we didn't play that bad. We didn't shoot well, but we missed a lot of open shots. We told the guys we're right where we want to be. We're getting better defensively."

Where specifically on defense?

"Defensive rotations and assignments," Courtney said. "We're doing a great job with that. We're doing a great job of getting back on defense. We just ran into a guy on an incredible night (referring to BU's Darryl Partin). He was shooting 20 percent coming into the game, he goes for 32 points and we still hoave a chance to win the game even though we didn't make our shots. We see some things we're doing well. We're executing (on offense) better; we just have to finish the plays a little bit."

What is the coaching staff doing to help Peck overcome a slow start?

"What we're telling him is to concentrate on defense. We're putting him on some very good players right now. He's almost emerging into a stopper role. If he can do that and worry about that and rebound, I think his offense will eventually come."

Courtney said Peck's struggles to score the ball have been a combination of not finishing shots he should, and forcing shots he probably shouldn't take.

"A little bit of both," Courtney said. "He's missed a lot of easy ones. He's also taken some tough ones and I think that comes with pressing a little bit. He knows he's struggled, so he presses a little bit and we tell him to let the game come to you. It's going to happen."

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