A final test before Ivy play begins
Cornell to host Stony Brook on Saturday
By Brian Delaney
January 7, 2011
January 7, 2011
ITHACA -- It's almost mid-January, and Bill Courtney is still plugging leaks. That's never a good sign, but no one at Cornell believes the damage has reached a critical juncture.
"(Mistakes) are still rearing their head more than you want to this time of year," Courtney said. "You want to put the majority of that stuff behind you."
Cornell isn't there just yet.
A new coaching staff, a roster thin on game experience and frontcourt personnel, minor injuries, a difficult non-league schedule -- all excuses, certainly, but all primary factors as to why Cornell enters the final game before Ivy League play with a record of 3-10.
After Stony Brook visits Newman Arena at 2 p.m. Saturday, the Big Red will spend the following seven days preparing for Columbia on Jan. 15.
The problem facing the Big Red now is defense, a head-scratching development considering that when the first semester schedule ended on Dec. 4 at Minnesota, the team considered itself fairly competent at that end of the floor.
But since a second-half collapse against Binghamton on Dec. 18, opposing teams have found Cornell easy to break down. Each of the Big Red's last four opponents -- Bucknell, New Hampshire, Wofford and Buffalo -- have shot better than 50 percent from the floor. Take away Cornell's 3-point defense, which has largely been solid, and those teams have made 79 of 134 field goals inside the arc, an unsightly 59-percent clip.
"It's just being mentally focused for 40 minutes," guard Chris Wroblewski said. "We've seen some clips where it's not physical. We're playing hard and playing our tails off for the entire game. Sometimes our minds aren't there. We forget where (our guy is) and we get backcut on. Buffalo did a great job in getting some backdoor layups. We've got to stay tuned for the entire game."
Sophomore Errick Peck said the Big Red was outworked in Monday's 78-66 loss to the Bulls.
"They worked harder than us in that game for sure," he said. "They beat us to spots. They had easy cuts, easy buckets inside."
Cornell has no true shot blocker on its roster, which heightens the importance of sound positioning, communication and timely rotations away from the ball.
"In general, everything has to pick up a notch," junior guard Drew Ferry said. "You can't go defense half-hearted. It has to be all the way if you're going to be successful."
Stony Brook, like Binghamton and New Hampshire a member of the America East Conference, is led by guards Bryan Dougher (14.3 ppg) and Marcus Rouse (7.7 ppg). The Seawolves (6-7) have struggled offensively one season after winning a conference regular-season championship. They were knocked out in the first round of the NIT last March by Illinois.
Cornell has 40 minutes of non-league basketball remaining until the losses start really hurting. The next time it plays a complete game will be the first time.
It would indicate Courtney has a few less leaks to plug.
"We've got to play 40 minutes really well," Wroblewski said. "I don't think we've had a game where, for 40 minutes, we've felt really satisfied. We've had some stretches where we've had some stops in a row, or where we've really pushed the ball and worked well on offense. We haven't strung together enough of those stretches to constitute a whole 40 minutes."
Scouting Cornell-Stony Brook
Matchup: Stony Brook (6-7) at Cornell (3-10), 2 p.m., Saturday.
Radio: WVBR (93.5). Online: Follow Brian Delaney's in-game updates on Twitter (@BDelaneyIJ) at www.ithacajournal.com/twitter.
Coach: Steve Pikiell (6th season, 64-98).
Last time out: Marcus Rouse scored 19 points, but Stony Brook fell to Vermont, 55-49, Tuesday in a rematch of the teams' America East Conference tournament championship game last season won by Vermont. The Seawolves are 1-1 in conference play.
Probable starters: Danny Carter (6-9, 225, Jr., F), Al Rapier 6-7, 220, Jr., F), Anthony Mayo (6-9, 210, Fr., F), Bryan Dougher (6-1, 185, Jr., G), Marcus Rouse (6-0, 170, Soph., G).
Key reserves: Dave Coley (6-2, 180, Fr., G), Dallis Joyner (6-7, 270, Jr., F), Preye Preboye (6-6, 220, Soph., G/F).
Statistically: Dougher is the team's leading scorer at 13.8 ppg. He shoots .362 from the 3-point arc, .339 from the field and .853 from the free throw line. ... Rouse has 36 points in his last two games. ... Tommy Brenton, a 6-5 junior forward and a returning second-team all-league selection last year, is out indefinitely with a knee injury. ... Stony Brook opponents are shooting .308 from the 3-point arc. ... Stony Brook is 0-1 against the Ivy League this season, losing 73-72 at Columbia on Dec. 4.
Outlook: Stony Brook and Cornell have a lot in common. Both teams had excellent seasons last season, graduated their best player or players, have played inconsistent basketball to this point of the season, have dealt with injuries and have struggled offensively.
For Cornell, this is the final game before its Ivy League title defense begins on Jan. 15 at Columbia. The Big Red will need to think on its feet Saturday, as Stony Brook runs a vast number of offensive sets and likes to switch defenses often. In Dougher, the Seawolves have a bonafide playmaker and, like Cornell's Chris Wroblewski, a name on the Bob Cousy Award watch list.
This is Cornell's fifth and final game against an America East Conference opponent, with a win over Albany and losses to Binghamton, New Hampshire and Boston University. Cornell players talked Thursday of the importance of entering the Ivy League schedule off a win. Now, they just have to make sure it happens. There's no good reason it can't.