One team will get its first win on Wednesday night in Ithaca. It’ll likely be the one that plays the most consistent defense.
The Binghamton University (0-2) and Cornell University (0-2) men’s basketball teams meet on at 7 on Wednesday night in Newman Arena for a nonleague game. Neither squad has distinguished itself defensively after the first weekend of the season.
The Bearcats allowed an average of 76.5 points per game in its first two games, while the Big Red allowed an average of 87.5 points per game.
“We’ve had times where we really looked good,” Bearcats freshman point guard Yosef Yacob said. “You could tell that we could be a great team if we just play hard. It’s all with effort. … We’re working. We’re going to get there. We’re going to be a good defensive team.”
The Bearcats have started three freshmen in each of their first two games, and the Big Red had two freshmen in the starting lineups for each of their games.
The Big Red lost in overtime on Sunday to the same Loyola University team that defeated the Bearcats by five points in the Events Center on Friday night.
While each team has relied on freshmen who are adjusting to playing defense on the college level, they’ve also shown considerable offensive prowess.
Bearcats 6-foot-9 freshman forward Nick Madray earned America East Conference Rookie of the Week honors on Monday after averaging 15.5 points per game in his first two games, while Big Red freshman guard Robert Hatter earned the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Week award after averaging 20.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists.
Hatter, a shifty 6-foot-2 left-handed shooter with Horace Grant-style glasses, made 56 percent of his shots from the floor and 7-of-10 3-pointers in games against Syracuse and Loyola. He scored 32 points against Loyola, including 20 in the first half.
Yacob and the Bearcats other freshman point guard Marlon Beck, who has averaged 10.5 points per game off the bench in the first two games, will both defend Hatter.
“He has that great combination of a kid that can get to the basket and finish and also shoot it from deep,” Bearcats coach Tommy Dempsey said. “He becomes a hard match-up because if you pressure him he seems like he has the ability to get by you. If you sag off him, he’s going to shoot it in your face. He has a very bright future.”
Yacob, a 6-foot tall native of Chester, Pa., had already watched video of Hatter by the time his team practiced on Tuesday morning. He said he planned to watch more before Wednesday night’s game.
Yacob’s quickness and long wiry frame made him a stellar defender in high school. While he stressed that his focus will be on sticking to the team’s defensive principles and playing team defense, he also admitted looking forward to the one-on-one match-up with Hatter.
“I want to stop him from doing what he wants to do,” said Yacob, who has averaged 11.5 points per game. “It’s like a challenge for me to stop him from getting 10 points or eight points, to have a little goal (for him) to have three points by the half or something.”
The Bearcats defense would benefit greatly from having its top players on the floor during key stretches, but in both of their games they’ve had to sit several starters because of foul trouble.
The new emphasis on freedom of movement by the NCAA has resulted in more fouls on the defense. It hasn’t been received kindly by Dempsey, who likened the early-season games to field hockey with constant whistles stopping play.
“We have to try to adjust and guard without using our hands, but, honestly, the way the game is being called is a joke,” Dempsey said. “It’s just become much more about the officials and less about the players.
“I’m just not sure why we’re going in this direction. It’s hurting the game. The games are too long. There’s too many free throws. It’s not fun for the fans. It’s not fun for the players to play in the games where the games have no flow.”