By Brian Delaney
December 28, 2010
After a week of reflection and many hours spent reviewing film of Cornell's first 10 games, Big Red men's basketball coach Bill Courtney believes addressing some fundamental issues will help his 2-8 team snap out of a seven-game losing streak this week.
Cornell's biggest issue through 10 games has been an inconsistent and prone-to-prolonged-droughts offense -- something that hasn't been seen in Newman Arena for several seasons. The team's field goal shooting percentage (.385) is dreadful, ranked seventh in the Ivy League. Its defensive rebounding numbers are also reflective of a team struggling to win games.
Cornell has scored more than 70 points just once, and during its current skid is averaging 61.1 points per game. For a team that wants to play fast, that's a bad sign.
Courtney said his film review showed him 2-8 can get better, quickly. Cornell plays two games this week at the VCU Tournament in Richmond, Va., beginning with Wednesday's 5 p.m. tip against New Hampshire. VCU and Wofford play in the nightcap.
"There's a very small difference between 2-8 and 7-3 right now for us," Courtney said. "A very small difference. Doing some of the simple things we talk about and that we can control, I think will help us maybe turn our results in another direction."
"Such as, can we run the floor hard offensively and defensively on every possession? Can we block out for every possession? Can we control that? Yes, we can control those things," he said. "Can we wait for a screen and set a screen? Yes, we can control that. Can we space the floor properly? Yes, we can control that."
For the exception of the Delaware game and the first half of the Binghamton game, Cornell's offense has looked easy to guard. Screening and floor spacing have been repetitive problems, and they aren't small ones.
Cornell's personnel is not quick enough, nor athletic enough, to beat most opponents in straight-up, one-on-one situations. Most good Ivy League teams get offense through a combination of intelligent execution, constant movement away from the ball a minimal amount of directionless dribbling.
There have been stretches when Cornell has done those things well, but longer stretches when it hasn't. Second-half droughts in the losses to St. Bonaventure. Lehigh, Boston University and Binghamton were critical to deciding outcomes.
Too often, it looks like Cornell has to work too hard to score. In essence, it needs more easy baskets. Thus, Courtney points to more productive screen action and better floor spacing.
"I think it's two-part," Courtney said. "Screening, and also waiting for the screen. I think our big guys are willing to set them. Our guards have to do a better job of setting them up and waiting for the screen. We're trying to do better at that and execute that better."
Courtney stressed those issues at a 10:30 p.m. practice Christmas Night, and during double-sessions Sunday afternoon and evening.
"When you're trying to do everything new, and you try and do it essentially with new guys, it takes time," he said. "You have so many things to do, and that's one of the areas that might have been stressed as much by us or whatever. But we haven't done as good a job as we should have."
Cornell opens Ivy play against Columbia on Jan. 15. In between, it has four games to put a forgettable 10-game start behind it.
Penn swept the Ivy League men's awards on Monday after a win last week at Delaware.
* Junior point guard Zack Rosen scored 26 of his 30 points in the second half, and was named Ivy player of the week.
* Guard Miles Cartwright grabbed rookie of the week honors for the third time this season, scoring 20 points in the Delaware win.
* It's clear Paul Cormier is improving things at Dartmouth. The Big Green is 4-7 after a 67-49 win at Drake on Dec. 21. Dartmouth will miss guard Ronnie Dixon, who's expected to sit out six weeks with a broken hand suffered in practice Dec. 20. If that diagnosis holds, he'd return in the first week of February -- one weekend after Dartmouth's home series against Columbia and Cornell. In 2009-10, Dartmouth finished 5-23 overall and 1-13 in league play. It had zero road wins, but has two already this season.
* Yale (5-5) plays at Stanford at 10 p.m. Tuesday night. As of Monday, the Ivy League is 42-39 (.519) in non-league games. That winning percentage is the league's best since the 2001-02 season, when teams were 62-52 (.543). The league had a three-way tie for the championship that season, with Princeton, Penn and Yale each finished 11-3.
* Errick Peck's 21-point, eight-rebound effort in Cornell's 75-64 loss to Bucknell on Dec. 20 was meaningful for a reason other than the obvious his-team-needed-it: he did it while largely being defended by last season's Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, Bryan Cohen.
* In his last four games, Peck is averaging 15.8 points on 50 percent shooting. In his first six, he averaged 4.2 on 23 percent shooting.
* Unfortunately for Cornell, while Peck has thrived in recent weeks, junior point guard Chris Wroblewski has struggled. In his last five games, the 6-0 guard is averaging 11 points per while shooting .269 from the floor (14 for 52) and .276 from the arc (8 for 29).