Friday, December 3, 2010 Previews Cornell

By Ryan James
Gopher Illustrated/

Cornell may be walking into the fire pit tomorrow night. After a week's worth of Tubby Smith reminding them of how bad their defense was last Monday against Virginia, the Minnesota Gophers should be ready to take out their frustrations on the Big Red. Cornell has lost four straight and are 2-5 on the season.

The Storyline

This is Minnesota's rebound game after a very poor defensive effort against Virginia last Monday. It's also a test for the team in terms of how much they have gelled as a new group with Devoe Joseph's return and Al Nolen's absence. Regardless of how talented Devoe is, there was still a definite chemistry difference in the Gophers we saw on Monday compared to the Gophers that we saw in the six victories.

Two win Cornell comes in at the right time as they seem like a great test subject for Tubby's crew. Cornell is struggling though a four game losing streak that has included a 20 point loss at Syracuse, a five point loss at Boston U, a three point loss at Lehigh, and a two post loss at home against St. Bonaventure. Cornell also lost to Seton Hall 92-68 on November 14th.

Cornell no longer has Ryan Wittman but Chisago Lakes High School (Minnesota) standout Josh Figini is a sophomore for the Big Red averaging 3.8 points and 1.5 rebounds in nine minutes a game.

The last time Cornell was at The Barn (December 6th, 2008) they scared the pants off Golden Gopher basketball with a 13 point lead in the second half before a furious defensive rally gave Minnesota a 71-54 victory.

The Numbers

Teams have found it difficult to shoot on Cornell this season. The last five opponents have made only 21 of 93 three pointers and three of their last four opponents have been held under 37 percent shooting for the game. Minnesota will try and buck the trend with Joseph and Blake Hoffarber. Joseph drained 3 of 8 treys in his first game back from suspension while Hoffarber has hit 24 of 62 three-pointers so far this season. Blake is Minnesota's leading scorer with 15.6 points per game (also averaging 4.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds a contest).

Cornell can shoot as they have made 61 three-pointers this season compared to only 35 from their opposition. Leading scorer Chris Wroblewski, 6-foot-0 175 pounds, has knocked down 37 percent of his threes while averaging 13.8 points a game, second leading scorer Andrew Ferry, 6-foot-4 175 pounds, is scoring 10 points a game and hitting 34 percent of his 50 three point attempts, and senior Max Groebe, 6-foot-4 205 pounds, has scored 17 three-pointers this season averaging 7.6 points a contest.

In it's five losses Cornell has out-rebounded by 14 on average! Yuck. They have given up 14.6 offensive rebounds a contest in those losses. Meanwhile, the Gophers are out-rebounding opponents 39.7 to 35.3 on average with Trevor Mbakwe grabbing 9.3 a game (with 14.3 points a contest), Colton Iverson snatching 6.9 a game in 18.4 minutes a contest (averaging 7.7 points a game), and Ralph Sampson is pulling down 6.4 rebounds a game (and scoring 11.4 points).

Six-foot-5, 235 pound Cornell senior Adam Wire has more than half (25 of 49) of his rebounds on the offensive end. His 49 boards for the season is more than double the 23 from the second leading rebounder Aaron Osgood (the 6-foot-9, 230 pound Osgood is the team's third leading scorer with 9.2 points a contest).

The Match-Ups

As usual, Gopher opponents are going to struggle with Minnesota's size, especially in the case of Cornell. The Big Red is not a very good rebounding team and the heaviest guy on their squad is the 235-pound Wire at 6-foot-5. Minnesota should have a huge advantage around the rim from any angle one wants to look at things. They should dominate the boards on both ends, most post-ups from Mbakwe, Iverson, and Sampson should come from deep on the block, the Gopher shot block numbers are likely to be in double figures, and Sampson will have several face-up looks throughout the game.

This is a game that Mbakwe should put up great numbers. He's going to be bigger both in strength and height than the person guarding him and few in the country can match Trevor's explosive ability. However, Trevor does have to consistently box out the aggressive Wire who will be constantly attacking the offensive glass.

Teams haven't been shooting very well from behind the arc against Cornell so the Gophers can use that as a challenge. If Hoffarber can plug in four of five triples with Joseph sinking two or three while keeping a big focus on running a solid halfcourt offense, Minnesota should role.


Cornell lost three close games to St. Bonni, Lehigh, and Boston before Syracuse beat them by 20. They are on the road for a 4th straight contest against a Gopher team looking to rebound against Virginia. Had the Gophers not lost to the Wahoos I would say that Cornell may be able to catch Minnesota napping and keep it close for a little bit but now that Tubby has pounded the defensive importance into Minnesota's head for a week this game could be a tough one for the Big Red.

MINNESOTA 82 Cornell 56

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