Friday, February 3, 2012

The Dartmouth Previews Visiting Cornell


After a tough set of games last weekend, the Dartmouth men’s and women’s basketball teams will look to record their first Ivy League wins of the season this weekend. The Big Green men (4-16, 0-4 Ivy) will host Columbia University on Friday night and Cornell University on Saturday night at Leede Arena. The Big Green women (2-14, 0-2 Ivy) travel to Columbia on Friday night and Cornell on Saturday evening.

On the men’s side, the Lions (12-8, 1-3 Ivy) and the Big Red (7-11, 2-2 Ivy) both pose challenges for the Big Green. Dartmouth is 3-4 on its home court this season while Columbia is 6-4 on the road. Cornell, on the other hand, has yet to win a game in an opponent’s gym this season. Captain David Rufful ’12 stressed that this should put the Big Green in a position to win this weekend.

“It’s very difficult to win on the road,” Rufful explained. “Having a home crowd and being in an environment we’re in every day is definitely an advantage.”

Columbia, which currently stands sixth in the Ivy League, has lost three of its four conference games, though those losses have come by a total of just 11 points. The Lions are led by junior center Mark Cisco, who averages 9.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and recorded his third consecutive double-double in last week’s loss to Cornell. Other key Lions include junior forward John Daniels, who averages 6.2 rebounds per game, and junior point guard Brian Barbour, who ranks fourth in the Ancient Eight in scoring at 15.6 points per game. Columbia is a tall team that poses a challenge for the Big Green.

“They’re a team that has a center [Cisco] who is the best rebounder in the league,” Dartmouth head coach Paul Cormier said. “[He and Daniels] are two of the better offensive and defensive rebounders in the league. Columbia also has one of the best point guards [in the league] in Barbour. These three play inside-out but [Columbia is] more of a power team because of the two bigs.”

Cornell sits fourth in the League and has limited its opponents to shooting an Ivy-best 27 percent from behind the three-point arc. Thirteen of Cornell’s last 14 games against Division-I opponents have been decided by less than 10 points, so the Big Red is also accustomed to playing in close games. Senior Drew Ferry leads Cornell with 12.2 points per game. Cormier explained that Cornell’s style of play is very different than Columbia’s.

“Cornell is more of a perimeter-oriented team,” Cormier said. “They play with a lot of depth on their team and they really like the press. The pose a ton of problems for us having to change our focus from playing against a power team to being very concerned about the perimeter play.”

After four losses to begin Ivy League play, the Big Green will look to rebound and secure its first conference win of the season this weekend. The team has worked hard in practice this week to understand and combat the different styles of play of Columbia and Cornell.

“We’ve really focused on trying to expose their weaknesses,” Rufful said. “Cornell is much more athletic and they play defense much more man-oriented. Columbia is a much bigger team. They are very efficient and a little methodical in running their offense.”

Cormier stressed that the team has continued to work hard both in practice and during games. He also said he feels more confident playing more people off the bench.

“Even though the wins have not been coming as frequently as we want, I think [the players] see that we’re making improvements,” he said. “All in all, I really have nothing but praise for our team as far as coming every day and working to get better. Hopefully in February, we’ll get some wins that will be indicative of the hard work the kids have put in.”

On the women’s side, Dartmouth is 2-7 on the road, while Columbia is 2-6 at home and Cornell is 3-3 on its home court.

“I feel like we’re focused this week and ready to play, even though the bus rides are very long,” Sasha Dosenko ’12 said. “We’re hoping to win.”

The Saturday contest will be the Big Red’s first back-to-back on the season, which may give the Big Green an advantage since they have already played several games on short rest this season.

Columbia is tied for seventh in the Ivy League and just like Dartmouth, the Lions are still looking for their first Ivy League victory of the season.

Senior Melissa Shafer and junior Tyler Simpson lead the Lions in scoring, averaging 10.3 and 10.1 points per game, respectively. Shafer currently ranks second all-time for Columbia in both three-pointers made and three-pointers attempted. Should she convert on 17 more three-pointers, she would become the program’s all-time leader.

Cornell is currently tied with Harvard for third place in the Ivy League. The Big Red shot 57.1 percent from the floor on Saturday in its 67-53 victory over the University of Pennsylvania. Junior Clare Fitzpatrick and sophomore Allyson DiMagno lead Cornell with 10.7 and 10.6 points per game, respectively.

Head coach Chris Wielgus explained that the Big Green have a shorter time to prepare this week, since the team could not meet for practice Monday after having a game Sunday. They focused on Cornell on Tuesday and prepared for Columbia on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We have to handle different styles and different offenses from each team,” Wielgus said. “It’s all technical. We’re preparing for all the defenses and offenses we’ll see over the weekend.”

Dosenko explained that Dartmouth has been refining its zone in practice this week after watching film of both teams.

“We watched the tapes of Columbia and Cornell so we know the style of their play,” Dosenko said. “We’re focusing on defense because we’re playing zone against them. [We’re also focusing on] breaking their press, just playing hard.”

With two games in one weekend, Wielgus stressed the importance of taking it one game at a time.

All the team can do is practice hard throughout the week and do it best on game day, he said.

“All we do is prepare the team for what they’re going to face,” Wielgus said. “We have enormous respect for all our opponents in the Ivy League — any team can beat any team on any given day. I’m excited to be back and playing again [this week].”

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