Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ithaca Journal Previews St. Bonaventure at Cornell

By Brian Delaney
Ithaca Journal
November 19, 2010

ITHACA -- Chris Wroblewski was just full of self-deprecating one-liners in the wake of his season debut Wednesday against Delaware. The junior point guard had missed Cornell's first two games, and the Big Red had clearly missed his steadying court presence.

He was more than happy to have the ball back in his hands, and to be answering questions about his performance rather than his ongoing rehab.

"I wasn't too explosive to begin with, so it's not like my game has to change too much," he quipped.

Wroblewski was a calming influence during Cornell's 75-61 win at Newman Arena, the program's 12th straight at home. They'll go for No. 13 against St. Bonaventure tonight at 7 p.m.

Wroblewski came off the bench about four minutes into the game. He committed two quick turnovers and a foul before adjusting to the pace. At halftime, he had zero points on two shot attempts, three assists and a steal.

In the second half, he looked much more like his old self over 14 minutes. He scored 13 points and played steady defense. When Cornell needed to run the clock and maintain its seven to 10-point lead, he made sure those possessions were fruitful ones by utilizing a high ball screen to his advantage.

On at least two plays, he had hockey assists that led to easy layups with the shot clock under 10, because of the attention he drew. Those plays were death knells to the Blue Hens.

"In practice, we do a lot of situational stuff where we're up and we have to keep the lead," Wroblewski said. "And we work it really well in practice. It didn't come as a shock to me that we did it in the game. Poise was a huge emphasis for us."

Wroblewski's still taking things cautiously. Ankle injuries tell the true tale of their exertion on the morning after a game, and Wroblewski said in Wednesday's postgame he was already experiencing soreness.

Cornell coach Bill Courtney didn't have his point guard under a steadfast minute count, but resisted the urge to overplay him.

"It was based on how he was going to feel," Courtney said. "His rest, and how he can affect the game, and if he can be a positive factor for us. He was definitely shook at the beginning, when he first got in the game. He was trying to find his way a little bit, but he was able to bounce back from that and then he really played well."

Cornell played some of its best basketball when Wroblewski and fellow point guard Miles Asafo-Adjei were on the court together. Asafo-Adjei defended Delaware's best guard, Devon Saddler, allowing Wroblewski to play off the ball on Jawan Carter and Kaleb Clyburn.

"He's super athletic," said Wroblewski, referring to Asafo-Adjei. "He can jump and distribute and everything I can't really do. It's nice. He can really push the ball, and I like playing off-ball too. He's another guy that can get into the middle of the lane and then kick out and make plays for other guys."

Teammates said their confidence levels rose with their leader back on the court. Anthony Gatlin, who scored 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting, sounded relieved when asked about Wroblewski's return.

"It was real, real big having Chris back," he said. "He's a team captain. He played last year, started last year, he brings real experience. He helps the team, he calms the team down, makes big shots."

St. Bonaventure plays a bigger lineup than Delaware, but Wroblewski's role -- barring an unexpected setback -- won't change.

Point guard Ogo Adegboye scored 17 points in the Bonnies' win last weekend over Arkansas-Little Rock. But St. Bonaventure talk begins and ends with standout 6-9 forward Andrew Nicholson.

For Cornell, it begins and ends with Wroblewski.

"Having him back on the floor, even though he was rusty, he provides such a calm for our guys and kind of lets them know it's going to be OK," Courtney said.

Matchup: St. Bonaventure (1-1) at Cornell (2-1), 7 p.m., Friday night at Newman Arena

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

Coach: Mark Schmidt (4th season, 39-54)

Last time out: The Bonnies beat Arkansas-Little Rock, 77-64, last Sunday at home. Andrew Nicholson had 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Did you know? In the preseason Atlantic-10 Conference poll, St. Bonaventure was picked to finish 13th out of 14 teams.

Probable starters: Ogo Adegboye (6-1, 185, Sr., G), Michael Davenport (6-5, 210, Jr., G), Demitrius Conger (6-6, 205, Soph., F), Da'Quan Cook (6-8, 235, Jr., F), Andrew Nicholson (6-9, 235, Jr., F)

Outlook: Nicholson is a potential pro prospect, and one of the best big men in the A-10. He's St. Bonaventure's all-time leader in field goal percentage, helped by efforts of 8-for-12 and 8-for-13 in his first two games. Adegboye, a point guard, plays for the Great Britain national team, and may compete in the 2012 Olympics. Davenport scored 19 and 17 points in his first two games.

Beyond the starting lineup, Schmidt doesn't play much of his bench. His first sub is 6-4 freshman Matt Wright, arguably the team's biggest perimeter threat. The Bonnies lean heavily on their four returning starters, especially Nicholson.

For Cornell, defensive rebounding will be paramount. The Bonnies are bigger at just about every position, and Nicholson is potentially a matchup nightmare. It should be an important night for 6-9 seniors Mark Coury and Aaron Osgood, as well as 6-5 senior Adam Wire.

The Big Red has won 12 straight at Newman Arena, including Wednesday's 75-61 victory over Delaware.

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