Friday, March 2, 2012

Ithaca Journal Weekend Preview

ITHACA -- A quick peek at the Ivy League men's basketball standings might lead to the conclusion that Cornell does not have much to gain from this weekend's season-ending home stand against Dartmouth and Harvard.

Big Red coach Bill Courtney will tell you that conclusion is wrong.

For starters, with one win, Cornell (11-15, 6-6 Ivy League) would surpass its Ivy win total from a year ago. The Big Red can also secure a season sweep of Dartmouth with a win Friday night, and by beating Harvard on Saturday could have a massive hand in who gets crowned this season's league champion.

Saturday's game against the Crimson is "Senior Night," and will be shown on ESPN3.

"Obviously there are a lot of different motivations for this weekend," Courtney said. "For us it's about the progression of our program. We have the chance to get seven or eight (conference) wins and improve upon what we did last year. If you had told me we'd be in this situation at the beginning of the year without having players like (junior) Errick Peck and (junior) Miles Asafo-Adjei for a long stretch, I probably would have taken that."

Friday night, Cornell will look to complete a sweep of a Big Green squad that has lost 16 of its last 18 and is just 1-11 in conference play. The Big Red defeated Dartmouth, 68-59, on Feb. 4 for its first road win.

In all likelihood, senior co-captain and point guard Chris Wroblewski will become Cornell's all-time career assists leader early in the Dartmouth game. He needs just one more helper to pass former teammate Louis Dale (2006-10). Earlier in the season, Wroblewski became the school's 24th 1,000-point scorer and the first two-time Academic All-American.

He enters the weekend averaging 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.8 steals, and is one of four seniors -- along with Anthony Gatlin, Max Groebe and Drew Ferry -- who will be honored prior to Saturday's game against Harvard.

"Those guys have been just great kids and great to coach," Courtney said. "Someone like Chris (Wroblewski), you don't lose a guy like that and don't be hurt. He's been a great leader for us and an incredible partner in my two years here trying to adjust. He means a lot to this program and to Cornell. He's basically impossible to replace."

Depending on how games around the Ivy League go Friday night, Saturday's game could have immense ramifications for Harvard (24-4, 10-2) and its quest for the conference title. The Crimson enters Friday night's game at Columbia a half-game ahead of Penn, and tied in the loss column. Anything from a solo champion to a four-team playoff is still possible.

Penn (17-11, 9-2) hosts Brown and Yale before closing out the season on Tuesday at Princeton.

"Obviously (Saturday) will be a huge game for them," said Courtney of Harvard, which downed Cornell, 71-60, earlier this season. "Either they can come out incredibly hungry or be a little tight. We'll try to take advantage of either one, but we want to worry about our game plan and make sure we play well."

CU men's basketball

Record: 11-15 overall, 6-6 Ivy League

Friday night's game: Dartmouth (5-23, 1-11) at Cornell

Saturday's game: Harvard (24-4, 10-2) at Cornell

When: Both games 7 p.m.

Where: Newman Arena (4,473)

Radio: WYXL-HD2 (103.3)

Online: ESPN3 (Saturday only)

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