Friday, December 17, 2010

Ithaca Journal Updates on the Big Red

A two-week finals break culminates with the close of the first semester Friday, which means Cornell will return to the hardwood. On Saturday, the Big Red will make the 55-minute drive south to the Binghamton University Events Center for a 2 p.m. tip-off with the 2-6 Bearcats.

To recap, Cornell is 2-6 with wins over SUNY Albany and Delaware, and losses to Seton Hall, St. Bonaventure, Lehigh, Boston University, No. 8 Syracuse and No. 15 Minnesota. The team takes a five-game losing streak into the next portion of its schedule, a six-game slate I've uncreatively dubbed Part 2 of the non-league slate. It is this stretch of games that will clue us into just how prepared this Big Red team is to defend its Ivy League championship. In essence, what kind of resistance can current frontrunners Princeton and Harvard expect from Cornell?

No guesses here, yet. But I do have some notes to pass along after today's sit-down with Bill Courtney and subsequent practice:
  • Aaron Osgood (pictured below) is a "maybe" for the Binghamton game (he suffered a minor knee sprain on Thanksgiving Day). He practiced halfcourt stuff Wednesday, then extended himself today. Osgood said his knee, which was heavily wrapped with ace bandaging and the like, felt sore but good. He said the only limitations he needs to overcome are of the mental variety: "I'm kind of tentative right now," he said. "It's more of a mental thing than a physical thing I think, but today I did fine so tomorrow I may push it even more and hopefully get to 100 percent soon." The decision to play will come down to trainer Marc Chamberlain and Courtney.
    Courtney had this to say on Osgood's rehab. Keep in mind, we spoke before today's practice. "He's coming along. I'm not sure what his status will be for this weekend. He wants to play because his parents are coming from Seattle. Hopefully he'll be ready to play a little bit. I'm not sure what his role can be, being out so long, but if he's healthy he'll be out there on the floor."
  • Freshman Dwight Tarwater has mono, and will be out for an indefinite amount of time. He stopped by practice to alert the coaches, then took some good-natured ribbing when he picked up his water bottle for a drink (each player has his own bottle, name on it and all). A chorus of "Burn It" was taken up by his teammates, and Tarwater departed with a tired smile.
  • Courtney on Binghamton:
    "They struggled in their first (six) games, and now the last two games they seemed to figure themselves out with their scoring. They were averaging (48 ppg) and now they hit 70-plus the last two games. Of course, the timing is terrific for us. Their length really presents issues for us: Greer Wright, Chretien Lukusa, those guys are very big guars. Their wings and front court guys are all 6-7, 6-8, so their length will present the biggest challenge for us. And their individual offense, they're really good at scoring off the dribble, and we've got to play team defense against that individual offense."
  • Courtney on Greer Wright, Binghamton's 6-8 leading scorer:
    "He's diverse. He's a very good driver, he gets free throws and he also gets 3's. He's really the definition of a scorer because he scores in a lot of different ways and he's thinking score all the time." Courtney said he'll rotate defenders on Wright, but that the assignment will first go to Errick Peck.
  • Courtney on how the coaching staff spent its two weeks:
    "I've been on the road seeing juniors, seeing the couple guys who've committed to us early. So we've taken some days and the assistants have also taken some days to take some long trips and go see some guys. There's been a lot of recruiting, but also still trying to stay with the team and get better so we don't fall back too much."
  • Courtney on Johnathan Gray and Miles Asafo-Adjei's ongoing competition at guard:
    "I really judge it by practice and what guys do in practice. Matchups determine some of that and both those guys have actually practiced well during finals. It's different challenges, and we have so many guys who are equal who probably deserve playing time, but they take it from another guy. It's a fine line trying to mix and match a little bit, see what we need and I think both those guys are very, very different in their games. Depending on what the game is and what the matchup is, that will really determine who gets the most playing time between those two."
  • Courtney identified Gray and 6-7 sophomore Pete McMillan as guys who've earned minutes through their play in practice over the past two weeks, saying:
    "Johnny's one of them. Not knowing what his role was on this team, he played a lot when Chris (Wroblewski) was hurt and didn't play as much and he proved he did a great job in the Minnesota game, and he's done a great job in practice. Even when he was playing, he never actually practiced with the first 'red' group. So now he's practicing with the first red group, so he's really earning his way into the rotation. A guy like Pete McMillan, who was out for so long (with a concussion) and came in and produced, he's earning it in practice also. You look at those two guys, that sophomore class, they're really doing a good job of earning minutes."
  • Courtney on McMillan:
    "He's a very good passer also. For him, playing inside instead of at the 3 helps him defend a little bit. He has some issues guarding perimeter players, but guarding a frontcourt guy, maybe a 4-man, if he plays tough and rebounds the basketball, he can effectively guard those guys and then he presents a big-time matchup problem for those guys because of the way he can spread the floor and make those guys try to guard him. He gets that shot off quick. He's a very cerebral player and he's done a good job. He's done a good job picking up sets and understanding what we're trying to do."

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