Friday, November 26, 2010

Ithaca Journal Previews Cornell at Boston U.

(Photo Cornell Daily Sun)

By Brian Delaney
Ithaca Journal
November 26, 2010

On the heels of two straight losses by a combined five points, Cornell enters Saturday's game at Boston University with the aim of plugging several holes on a leaky ship.

There's no reason to panic, but first-year coach Bill Courtney will look for widespread improvements against the Terriers. High on the list are sluggish starts, an absence of an inside offensive game and -- somewhat surprisingly -- turnovers.

Cornell committed 21 miscues in a 60-57 loss to Lehigh on Monday, a game the Big Red (2-3) believed it should have won.

"We have to continue to get better," Courtney said. "We have a long way to go but it's a long season. We've got to learn from this, learn from everything that happens, win or lose, and try to play better. We have to get off to better starts, though. We're getting into too many holes by the way we're starting the game."

Slow starts have factored into all five games, though length and severity have varied. Lehigh jumped out to a 20-9 lead as Cornell turned the ball over at an unseemly pace.

Cornell also has failed to show the inside-out offensive balance that was the staple of previous teams. Senior starting center Aaron Osgood, after scoring 33 combined points in his first two games, has just 13 points on 5-of-20 shooting in three games since. Senior Mark Coury has been used specifically in a defense and rebounding role, and sophomore Errick Peck has struggled with his touch around the rim.

The result has been additional pressure on the Cornell guards to create offense from the perimeter. St. Bonaventure and Lehigh benefited from that imbalance to the tune of one-possession victories.

The good news is Courtney has options. When the starting five struggled Monday, Cornell's bench sparked a run that got the Big Red back in the game.

Sophomores Josh Figini and Peck and juniors Anthony Gatlin and Drew Ferry played productive minutes. More playing time may be in store for that quartet on Saturday.

"The bench was huge," Courtney said. "We would have been buried because Chris (Wroblewski) got off to a slow start, Osgood got off to a slow start, (Adam) Wire got off to a slow start, and those guys came in and really gave us a lift after a slow start."

Said Wroblewski, who had eight turnovers: "It was great to see Josh Figini kick-start us back into the game because we were really showing no life in that first half. He and the other guys, they had the opportunity and actually took advantage of it, so it was great to see that."

Boston University was the preseason favorite to win the America East Conference. Senior guard John Holland is one of the country's top mid-major players. A 6-5 slashing small forward, he averages 19 points per game. He had 28 points in the Terriers' win over Nevada on Tuesday.

"They're a very, very talented team," Courtney said.

Cornell hosted BU in December of 2008, and won handily -- 89-59. Expect no such outcome this time, though the Big Red believes it can win with a better showing than it put forth Monday.

"Before that game, coach put on the board -- the last thing was 'Put it together,'" Ferry said. "It was our fifth game, and it was turnovers again. That had hurt us before. We were just careless with it. We dug ourselves a big hole. We just can't afford to do that. We've got to come out more aggressive and take care of the ball."

* Matchup: Cornell (2-3) at Boston University (3-3), 5 p.m., Saturday

* Radio: WVBR (93.5). Online: Follow Brian Delaney's twitter updates (@BDelaneyIJ) at

* Coach: Patrick Chambers (second season, 24-17)

* Last time out: BU played two consolation games at the NIT Season Tip-Off on Monday and Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The Terriers lost to Hampton 51-50 on Monday, then rebounded for a 66-57 win over Nevada on Tuesday.

* Probable starters: John Holland (6-5, 205, Sr., G/F), Jake O'Brien (6-8, 220, Jr., F), D.J. Irving (6-0, 165, Fr., G), Darryl Partin (6-6, 190, Jr., G), Patrick Hazel (6-6, 220, Jr., F).

* Statistically: Holland is a two-time first-team America East selection, and is averaging 19 points per game through six games. ...O'Brien is averaging 11and 6.3 rebounds. ... BU opponents are shooting .257 from the three-point arc. ... Partin (LaSalle), Matt Griffin (Rider) and Hazel (Marquette) are seeing time this year after sitting out the 2009-10 season due to NCAA transfer guidelines. ... BU is the second of five America East Conference opponents on Cornell's schedule. ... Dom Morris, a 6-7, 240-pound freshman reserve, is one of BU's top rebounders.

* Outlook: The BU game starts a challenging three-game stretch for the Big Red, continuing with road games at No. 11 Syracuse on Nov. 30 and No. 17 Minnesota on Dec. 4. Cornell needs to play at a much higher level than it did in Monday's 60-57 loss at Lehigh. The Big Red turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 21 times, were outrebounded down the stretch and relied too much on the perimeter for scoring.
Justify Full
BU is like Lehigh in one sense: the Terriers are not a physically imposing team underneath the basket. Athletic and talented? Sure. But their average size gives Cornell an opportunity to get better offensive production out of its big men. As coach Bill Courtney has repeated over the last three games, Cornell's offense must work inside-out, but there's been no "inside" to speak of since the Seton Hall loss on Nov. 14.

Holland is a terrific player, and his presence alone gives BU a chance to win on any night. The Terriers are integrating a lot of new pieces around Holland and O'Brien, combined with a freshman point guard in Irving learning the ropes.

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