Friday, December 3, 2010

Cornell Daily Sun Previews Big Red at Minnesota

By Quintin Schwab
Cornell Daily Sun
December 3, 2010

The Cornell men’s basketball team plays its second straight ranked opponent tomorrow night at 8 p.m. against No. 13 Minnesota at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minn. The Red will need a superb effort to snap its streak of four straight losses, the last of which came in a 78-58 blowout defeat at No. 7 Syracuse on Tuesday night.

The last time Cornell (2-5, 0-0 Ivy) played Minnesota (6-1, 0-0 Big Ten), the Gophers won, 71-54, on Dec. 6, 2008; the Red then won 17 of its next 21 games and a second straight Ivy League title. It’s doubtful a loss this time to the Gophers would have the same aftermath, as Cornell has struggled in the beginning of the post-Sweet 16 era under first-year head coach Bill Courtney.

“Obviously at this point we’d like to have a better record than [2-5],” said senior forward and tri-captain Adam Wire. “We feel like we should have won three of the games we lost, but that’s part of playing sports.”

Rebounding is Cornell’s Achilles’ heel and the reason for several of its close defeats, as opponents have out-worked the Red on the glass, 41-31, per contest through the team’s first seven games.

“Rebounding has definitely been our main problem so far,” Wire said. “Second chances are killing us. We don’t have the size or athletic ability to jump over people, so we have to box out and have all five guys---even the guards---crash the glass.”

The Red’s problems on the backboard will make it difficult to compete against the Minnesota frontcourt, which includes junior forward Trevor Mbakwe and junior center Ralph Sampson III. The two have combined for 25.7 points and 15.7 rebounds per game this season.

“The biggest problem [Minnesota] will pose is size,” said sophomore guard Errick Peck, who snapped out of his 2010-11 slump after high pre-season expectations with 14 points against the Orange---his first double-digit scoring game of the season, which led all Cornell scorers and tied a career-high. “We’re still an undersized team. We just have to come out aggressive and we’ll be okay.”

Peck was encouraged by his performance Tuesday night, and hopes to continue his rejuvenated play against the Gophers.

“I think I’m a product of the hard work I put in,” he said. “Unfortunately I hadn’t been working hard---just doing the bare minimum instead of putting in the extra work. That’s not me. I just have to keep working hard and go out and enjoy the whole experience of playing Division 1 basketball.”

Peck and the other Cornell guards must contribute against the Gophers ---who lost against Virginia on Monday night for the first time this year, 87-79---in order to pull off the upset and raise questions about Tubby Smith’s team that climbed into the national rankings two weeks ago after its upset of then-No. 8 North Carolina. In addition to its productive set of forwards, Minnesota possesses a potent backcourt, which offers leading scorer and senior guard Blake Hoffarber.

In addition to the winner of the 2007 ESPY Play of the Year Award (from Hoffarber’s 18-foot shot on his back to send the 2005 Minnesota high school state championship game into overtime), the Gophers boast junior guard Devoe Joseph, who scored 16 points against the Cavaliers in his return from a six-game suspension, as well as defensive star Al Nolen.

Nevertheless, the Red players know they must focus on their own team to shake off the slow start to the season.

“We know we haven’t played how we’re capable of yet,” Wire said. We’re a young team that’s still getting used to each other and the new coaches. But we’re getting better and hopefully we’ll start getting some wins here.”


Anonymous said...

Why would you put in the bare minimum level of work going into the start of a season in which you are one of the feature guys? That makes absolutely no sense.

Anonymous said...

And even if that were true, don't admit that to the media dude.

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, if it was true, why would you admit it?

It seems as if it might be showing...

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Anyone else think we are "undersized?"

With five guys @ 6'8" or more, and one super wide-body 6'5" guy, we're at least at the Ivy League norm.

Do we need to "play a little bigger?"

Anonymous said...

I think all of you are taking his comment the wrong way- I don't think Errick meant to say "effort". I think he was talking about his combination of nerves/pressure which did not allow him to play effectively.

The first three anonymous people who made comments, go watch another team. Or please try to be a little positive to our team and players. Cut them some slack.

Anonymous said...

“Unfortunately I hadn’t been working hard---just doing the bare minimum instead of putting in the extra work."

I don't think anyone is misinterpreting what he said. Is there a difference between "effort" and "working hard"? No. If his struggles were a result of nerves, he should have said it was the nerves.

He said he wasn't putting in the hard work, which is unacceptable when you're expected to be one of the main dudes.

He obviously realized that wasn't good enough so hopefully he doesn't run into that issue in the future. Wish him the best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Alright "unacceptable" Guy... Seriously? My guess is most everyone on the team puts in an exceptional level of effort, probably also hold themselves to incredibly high standards. What might be a lack of effort to them, is actually incredibly high to you or I. Relax a little with the "unacceptable" comments, save those for scholarship players and professionals. Go get 'em Errick.

Anonymous said...

“The last time Cornell played Minnesota, the Gophers won, 71-54. The Red then won 17 of its next 21 games and the Ivy League title. It’s doubtful a loss this time to the Gophers would have the same aftermath, as Cornell has struggled under first-year head coach Bill Courtney.”

A look at Ivy basketball history brings this second sentence above from the Sun article into question. Just because Cornell has struggled to get W’s in the non-conference schedule to this point does not preclude another Ivy title or an exciting season.

The Ivy League title has been won or tied for 20 times by teams with non-winning pre-season records, including Cornell’s 1988 league champion. More than one year in three! The most recent one was Penn’s 2004-05 champs who went 7-8 in pre-conference play. Teams with losing pre-season records even went undefeated twice in league play!

Importantly for the fan base, 36 league runner-ups had non-winning pre-seasons. Virtually every year in the Ivy League, a team struggles in the preseason and ultimately battles to a Top Two finish. That’s an exciting season! Why not us!

The 2010-11 Red may well end up with a sub-.500 out of conference mark. Not bad, especially considering the competition they faced. The league title is still well within reach. An exciting season is almost a lock!

Let’s go, Red!