Most of the Ivy League likes to get their home-and-home series between travel partners done early in the season. Thus on Saturday Cornell and Columbia will meet for the second time in as many games. This time the game is in Ithica, New York. The Big Red already beat Princeton at home, so they’re obviously dangerous and they’ll be looking to get revenge for the Lions’ 61-56 victory exactly a week ago. I asked The Cornell Basketball Blog to answer some questions about the team before the game to prepare for the epic rematch.
1. Last time these two teams met Columbia used the home court advantage to pull out the 61-56 as Mark Cisco dominated inside. How does Cornell adapt and contain him inside?
CBB: Cornell has struggled throughout the season defending the paint and rebounding. Cisco is a hard-nosed player and if the Big Red want to contain him, they will need to match his physicality and intensity. Critical will be hedging and denying him the interior entry pass and boxing out on the defensive glass.
2. Lions fans didn’t really see the best of freshman Galal Cancer in the last meeting. What does he do well?
CBB: Galal is still working on his decisions with the basketball and turnovers have been an issue. These are typical areas of needed improvement from freshmen point guards. But he excels both in transition and in the half court at getting himself into the lane and drawing contact. He is also very physical for a guard and from time to time has posted up smaller guards.
3. As the links to the 2010 Sweet 16 team graduate and the Ivy League continues to improve, how do you see Cornell fitting into the league in the near future? (I realize this is a little loaded, feel free to answer in whatever way you see fit.)
CBB: I think Cornell’s best basketball is still ahead and realistically expect this team to win a championship in the short term. The current freshmen class is loaded by Ivy standards and the incoming recruits in the class of 2012 also are each immediate impact types. The focal point of the class is Braxston Bunce, a 6’11′ 265 pound post player from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Another big addition to the roster next season will be the return of junior Errick Peck who is sitting out this season with a knee injury. He was a member of the rotation on the Sweet 16 team.
4. Cornell is 6-11, 1-2. What would a successful finish to the season entail? Is this what you expected considering the inexperience of some of the starters?
CBB: Cornell is by far the most injured team in the Ivy League. Cornell has already lost 89 player games due to injury (Asafo-Adjei – 9; D.Cherry – 4; Gatlin – 17; Groebe – 2; LaMore – 3; Matthews – 17; Peck – 17; Sahota – 17; Scelfo – 3). When you lose so many veteran players to health and rely so heavily on inexperienced freshmen, you have to accept a roller coaster type of season.
Cornell is 1-2 in the Ivy League. I don’t think any of the players or the coaches have given up on winning the league and that still remains the primary objective.
The journey towards a league title continues for both Columbia and Cornell on Saturday night. The loser, with three losses, is probably out of the Ivy title race unless everything goes completely haywire – and even now they’ve got to be hoping for a Yale win against Harvard on Friday night – so this is obviously a big one. A big thanks to The Cornell Basketball Blog. You can follow on twitter too!
Keys to the game for Columbia:
- Reestablish the post presence inside early. Sure Cornell is going to try to take away Cisco. Don’t let them. Feed him the ball. Also, Cisco has to make sure he stays out of foul trouble again. Often that’s what’s held him back from producing more than the opponents’ defense.
- Understand that every possession won’t be perfect. Both of these teams are much more proficient on defense than offense. Mistakes and missed shots are going to happen. Which team is able to bounce back quickly from those mistakes and make plays consistently is going to pull out the win.
- Hit some threes. I don’t know what’s up with Columbia right now, but the Lions are shooting 22.7% from three during Ivy play. That number is 34.0% for the season and the difference is a bunch of points. Meiko Lyles, Brian Barbour and Alex Rosenberg need to break the slump.
Columbia continues on the road in Ivy play next weekend, heading to Harvard and Dartmouth, so winning this one on the road would be a great step forward for the team if they intend to stay in the top half of the league this season. We’ll see if they’ve got what it takes on Saturday night at 7 p.m.