Brian Delaney's Around the Rim: Cornell's Peck snapping out of it
Sophomore stands tall vs. two top-25 teams after slow start
A difficult first-semester schedule is in the rearview mirror, and despite its 2-6 record, Cornell showed distinct signs of progress after dropping a 71-66 decision at No. 15 Minnesota on Saturday night.
Most promising for the Big Red was the play of sophomore Errick Peck, who put together a pair of quality efforts in successive games against top-25 opponents.
In the Big Red's first six games, Peck was KO'd by a combination of foul trouble, lack of self-confidence, poor shot selection and, at times, effort. He scored a total of 25 points, missed 30 of 39 shots from the field and had more turnovers (10) than field goals (9).
"It's all mental with me, more than physical," the 6-6 forward said. "I got some shots up last week, tried to get my shot back. It's helping out. For a minute there I was going to practice and that was it, and not putting in the extra work. I think you're a product of how hard you work, so ..."
He didn't need to finish the sentence. At Minnesota, he showed he's in the midst of mending the issues that led to a difficult start; a start made none the easier by expectations of a breakout season.
He scored 16 points against the Golden Gophers, and added season highs of 33 minutes, six rebounds and five assists. That followed up a 14-point performance at Syracuse last Tuesday, when he was the lone first-half bright spot in an otherwise forgettable evening for the Big Red.
Plenty of improvement lies ahead. Peck's defensive rebounding needs to pick up -- he has 11 defensive rebounds in eight games -- and he's still learning how to use his body when attempting to score against bigger opponents inside, but the past two games have been encouraging.
Cornell coach Bill Courtney said Peck's play is a key to the Big Red getting better offensive production inside the three-point line. Through eight games, Cornell's two-point production is woeful.
"I hope we get some in transition, get some layups and jump shots in transition," Courtney said. "I hope our offense can create some off-screen action; I'm hoping Errick can come back and give us a post presence. ... Hopefully now Errick's starting to get on track a little bit and he's our best hope to be a driver. He's a guy that can take it to the rim, so I'm hoping he can provide that for us, too."
* Underclassmen have dominated the Ivy League weekly awards this season. On Monday, Princeton sophomore forward Ian Hummer was named player of the week after averaging 19.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in wins over Lafayette and St. Joseph's. Through four weeks, a senior has yet to win this award.
Harvard freshman Laurent Rivard was picked rookie of the week. The perimeter marksman shot 10 of 17 from the arc and totaled 36 points in a 1-1 week for the Crimson.
* What a stretch. Yale opened with an 84-75 loss to Quinnipiac on Nov. 13, missing 16 of 21 3-pointers that night. Heading into last night's game against Albany, the Bulldogs were shooting a red-hot .444 from the arc (52 for 117) in six games since. This is the same program that shot .296 on 3s last season.
Sophomore Austin Morgan, a 5-11 guard from Reno, Nevada, is hitting at an unreal .564 clip and averaging a league-best 18.0 points per game.
* Rebounding woes. How difficult a time is Cornell having on the boards? When the NCAA updated its Division I statistics on Monday, the Big Red ranked 331st out of 336 teams in rebounding margin (-10.6).
Oddly enough, it was rebounding that kept Cornell within striking distance of Minnesota during the second half Saturday night. Over the final 20 minutes, Cornell grabbed 10 offensive boards and lost the rebounding edge by one, 21-20.
* An opportunity. The Quakers get a chance for another top-25 upset (they beat nationally ranked Cornell last year) Wednesday night against No. 12 Villanova in a Big Five game.
* Home, sweet home. Entering Monday night's schedule, Ivy League teams were 17-4 when playing at home.