Friday, February 24, 2012

Ithaca Journal Previews Big Red in Providence and New Haven

By Ed Boulat

ITHACA -- The Cornell men's basketball team will close out its conference road slate when it visits Brown Friday night and Yale on Saturday in search of some encouraging team milestones and a pair of Ancient Eight season sweeps.

The Big Red beat the Bears and Bulldogs at home on Feb. 10-11, and with one victory would surpass last season's wins total and equal its league victories mark. A season sweep of Brown and Yale would guarantee Cornell a .500 finish in conference play ahead of next weekend's season-ending home stand against Dartmouth and Harvard.

"We're certainly improved from last year, whether the record shows that or not," said Cornell coach Bill Courtney. "Hopefully, we can win a couple more games in these last weeks, but the program is certainly moving in the right direction, with so many good young players. We just hope to finish up strong and give us some momentum heading into next year."

Cornell was swept by Penn and Princeton on the road last weekend to drop to 5-5 in conference and 1-12 away from Newman Arena, a harsh reminder of the unforgiving Ivy League schedule and difficulties of beating one opponent twice in the same season.

Now the Bears and Bulldogs welcome Cornell to their home arenas, hungry to even the score.

"We're going to get their best shot," said Courtney, whose team beat Yale, 85-84 in overtime, on Feb. 10, then beat Brown the next night, 72-63. "At the same time, we have to stay within our own game plan and just try to improve our play on the road. We have to do the same things we did against them at home -- get after those guys defensively and rebound the ball."

Another thing Cornell did well was shoot the ball -- over 45 percent with hit 12 3-pointers in each of the two contests, with junior Johnathan Gray breaking out for a combined 45 points on 16-for-28 shooting including 10-for-15 from beyond the arc.

Senior point guard Chris Wroblewski also had memorable weekend, tallying 33 points, 18 assists and 13 rebounds in the two wins. Both players are averaging a team-best 12.6 points in Ivy League play, and should benefit from the return of fellow guard and defensive stopper junior Miles Asafo-Adjei, who played five minutes last weekend against Princeton after missing two months with a leg infection.

Against Brown (7-20, 1-9), Cornell will focus on sophomore point guard Sean McGonagill, who missed the first meeting due to injury. He's averaging 13.9 points, 5.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds, and as the Bears' primary ball-handler and scorer gives Brown "a different dynamic," according to Courtney.

Yale (17-7, 7-3) is led by Ivy League Player of the Year candidate Greg Mangano. The 6-foot-10 senior center accounts for 18.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, but was limited to just 14 points and five rebounds at CU.

» Note: Wroblewski has been named to the Capital One Academic All-America third team, selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America. He is the first Cornell player to earn Academic All-America honors twice in a career.

CU men's basketball

Record: 10-14 overall, 5-5 Ivy League

Friday night's game: Cornell at Brown (7-20, 1-9), 7 p.m.

Where: Pizzitola Sports Center (2,800), Providence, R.I.

Saturday's game: Cornell at Yale (17-7, 7-3), 7 p.m.

Where: John J. Lee Amphitheatre (2,800), New Haven, Conn.

Radio: WXYL-HD2 (103.3)

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