Monday, January 3, 2011

Brian Delaney Scouts Buffalo at Cornell

Above, U.Buffalo center, Mitchell Watt, poses in front of a Cornell University campus building during the fall of 2007. Watt originally committed to attend Cornell during 2007, but reopened his commitment in 2008 and subsequently chose Buffalo. Watt leads UB against Cornell tonight. Below, the Ithaca Journal's preview.

By Brian Delaney
Ithaca Journal
January 3, 2011

A memorable shooting performance that brought to an end a prolonged losing streak is now three full days in the rearview mirror.

The question now for the Cornell men's basketball team is this: Can the Big Red use that effort against Wofford as a springboard, or was that night simply akin to a hot streak in Vegas?

One thing is certain as Cornell prepares to host Buffalo at 7 p.m. Monday. The Big Red won't be building double-digit leads against Division I opponents by shooting 82 percent over the first 28 minutes. That's what it did against Wofford before holding on for a much-needed 86-80 victory Thursday in Richmond.

Junior guards Drew Ferry and Chris Wroblewski combined for 46 points, and Wroblewski added 12 assists and five rebounds off the bench as coach Bill Courtney shook up his starting lineup to take "pressure off" his struggling regulars.

The shakeup worked. Cornell won, ending its longest losing streak (eight games) in a single season since the forgettable winter of 1994. Errick Peck had 16 points in his sixth straight strong effort, and 6-foot-9 senior center Aaron Osgood added 12.

Collectively, Cornell shot 71 percent from the three-point arc (15-for-21), the second-highest percentage for a single game in school history and the highest since a 6-for-8 effort against Clarkson in 1993.

Buffalo is 7-4 after Thursday's 90-82 home loss to No. 16 BYU. The Bulls, a member of the Mid-American Conference along with the likes of Bowling Green, Ohio, Kent State and Akron, went 18-12 last season and gets the bulk of its scoring from guards Zach Filzen and Byron Mulkey. Buffalo's best wins are over Canisius on Nov. 23 and Wisconsin-Green Bay on Dec. 11.

Cornell is 42-5 at Newman Arena in its last 47 games, but only 1-2 this year after an 11-point loss to Bucknell on Dec. 20, and a two-point loss to St. Bonaventure on Nov. 19. Cornell hosts Stony Brook on Saturday before embarking on its Ivy League title defense with a Jan. 15 opener at Columbia.

Matchup: Buffalo (7-4) at Cornell (3-9), 7 tonight.

Radio: WPIE (1160). Online: Follow Brian Delaney's in-game updates through twitter (@BDelaneyIJ) at

Coach: Reggie Witherspoon (12th season).

Last time out: The Bulls gave No. 16 BYU a tough test Thursday night at home before losing, 90-82, in front of 5,802 at Alumni Arena. Mitchell Watt's 17 points led Buffalo.

Probable starters: Zach Filzen (6-3, 190, junior, guard), Byron Mulkey (6-0, 175, sr., g), Mitchell Watt (6-10, 215, jr., f), Dave Barnett (6-5, 200, jr., g/f), Titus Robinson (6-7, 210, jr., f).

Key reserves: Javon McCrea (6-6, 245, fr., f), Jawaan Alston (6-8, 225, sr., f), Tony Watson (6-2, 180, soph., g), Jarod Oldham (6-3, 185, fr., g).

Statistically: Leading scorers are Filzen (15.9 ppg) and Mulkey (14.4). Filzen is making 45.5 percent of his 3-point shots (40 for 88). ... Buffalo is 5-1 at home and 2-3 on the road. ... The BYU loss ended a three-game win streak, with victories over Niagara, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Houghton. ... Both Buffalo and Cornell have lost to St. Bonaventure by two points.

Outlook: After ridding itself of a long losing streak with Thursday's 86-80 victory over Wofford, Cornell needs to build on that by defending its home court. Buffalo is a quality opponent, so only a quality effort will turn one victory into two.

The good news for Cornell is that guards Drew Ferry and Chris Wroblewski are coming off their best games of the season. Ferry had 25, and Wroblewski 21 and 12 assists against Wofford. In addition, sophomore forward Errick Peck has been terrific for a stretch of five games now, and scored 35 total points at the Virginia Commonwealth University tournament.

Three straight Cornell opponents have shot better than 50 percent from the field. The Big Red needs to address that. If it can, and if it can get consistent offensive efforts from its best players, this is a winnable game.

Unfortunately for Cornell, this has been a season of ifs so far. With only two games until Ivy League play, inconsistency issues must be addressed now.


Anonymous said...

Why did Watt choose Buffalo over Cornell?

What were the issues?

Anonymous said...

He wanted to be closer to Niagara Falls.

Harry said...

maybe he didn't want to back up Jeff Foote.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

There are plenty of Mitchell's quotes here on the Blog if you do a search.

But in the end, he wanted to play at a "higher level" and chose Buffalo over offers from Rutgers and Pepperdine.

Anonymous said...

He also liked the high quality of his preferred academic program at UB vs other schools, though I believe has has switched majors since then.