GAME NOTES: The Cornell Big Red of the Ivy League are obvious underdogs tonight as they do battle with the Illinois Fighting Illini of the Big Ten Conference.
Cornell has won its last two games in overtime to move to 4-4 overall, and the most recent of two came on Saturday over Albany in an 85-82 final. The Big Red are 0-3 in true road games, however, and they will play their next five games in enemy territory beginning tonight.
Illinois suffered its first loss of the season when it dropped a 64-48 decision to UNLV on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago. Still, the Illini have 10 wins already and have beaten the likes of Maryland and Gonzaga, so one defeat is unlikely to break the confidence of the players and coaches. Of the 10 victories notched thus far, seven have come in Champaign.
The Illini own a 3-1 series edge over Cornell, but the teams haven't met in half a century.
Drew Ferry has been the leading scorer for Cornell in four of the last five games and is averaging 14.6 ppg on the strength of his 44.9 percent shooting from the field. Unfortunately, no other player is netting more than 9.1 ppg for the Big Red, who are generating 69.6 ppg while allowing 71.5 ppg to opponents. The club is being outrebounded by seven boards per contest, and that has to be viewed as the biggest area of weakness right now. In the three- point loss to Albany, Cornell shot 50.8 percent from the field, but a 22-13 deficit in points from the foul line and a 42-30 rebounding disadvantage proved costly. Ferry scored 26 points on 7-of-12 shooting from three-point range, and Josh Figini added 14 points in defeat. Galal Cancer posted 11 points and seven assists, while Jonathan Gray added 10 points.
D.J. Richardson continues to lead Illinois in scoring with his 14.2 ppg on the strength of 41.9 percent shooting from three-point range, and Meyers Leonard provides 12.8 ppg and 7.1 rpg. Sam Maniscalco checks in with 11.5 ppg, and Brandon Paul adds 10.3 ppg. The Illini are generating 69.5 ppg while limiting opponents to 57.2 ppg on 38.4 percent field goal efficiency. Richardson scored 19 points against UNLV on Saturday, but he hit just 6-of-17 shots from the floor. The Illini shot 25.4 percent overall in what was obviously a forgettable performance. They had more turnovers than assists and were outscored at the foul line, 17-9. The club trailed by 11 points at intermission and was outplayed over the final 20 minutes as well.
There is no doubt that Illinois is eager to get back to action after the dismal showing against UNLV. There is little chance Cornell will be able to win this one on the road against the hungry Illini.