Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ithaca Journal Previews St. Francis PA

ITHACA — The Cornell men’s basketball team closes the book on a rough 2013 calendar year Saturday when it hosts Saint Francis (Pa.) at 4 p.m. in Newman Arena.

The Big Red (0-9) will be looking to snap a 15-game losing streak dating to February when it takes on the Red Flash (1-7), and will be paying tribute to a couple of championship teams from its past. It is Alumni and Friends weekend on East Hill, and the 1953-54 and 2008-09 Big Red squads — which captured EIBL and Ivy League titles — will be recognized during the weekend and at a postgame reception. The program will have its annual alumni game on Sunday.

In addition, longtime play-by-play announcer Barry Leonard (HITS 103.3) will be recognized prior to the start of the game, which will be the 1,000th Cornell sports event he has called. Leonard, a 1980 Ithaca College graduate, also broadcasts Cornell football and lacrosse.

Cornell has not played since a 101-67 loss last Sunday at Notre Dame. The young Big Red is being led by sophomore guard Nolan Cressler (18.1 points per game), who is coming off a 17-point, nine-rebound effort at Notre Dame. Freshman guard Robert Hatter is also averaging double figures (11.8 ppg.) while chipping in 3.2 assists and 2.6 rebounds.

Junior guard Devin Cherry ranks third in team scoring (9.0 ppg., 3.1 rpg.); senior forward Dwight Tarwater (8.2 ppg.) leads the team in offensive rebounds per game (2.9).

The Big Red is scoring 68.7 points on 42 percent shooting and has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. Cornell has struggled defensively, allowing 87.2 points on 51 percent shooting, including 44 percent from 3-point range.

Saint Francis has dropped six games in a row, including Wednesday night’s 57-50 home loss to Lehigh. The Red Flash has scored 50 points or fewer in five of its past six games, and averages 55.1 points on 36 percent shooting, including 30 percent from beyond the arc.

Second-year coach Rob Krimmel’s squad is led by Malik Harmon (10.7 ppg., 3.4 apg.) and Earl Brown (10.6 ppg., 8.1 rpg.).

Cornell is trying to avoid its first 0-10 start since the 1904-05 season and snap the second-longest losing streak in program history. After Saturday’s game, the Big Red is off until Dec. 22, when it travels to Stony Brook.

WOMEN: Prior to the men’s game, the Big Red women (5-3) will take on St. Francis (N.Y.) at 1 p.m.

Coach Dayna Smith’s squad is coming off a 63-52 victory over Binghamton University on Wednesday at Newman Arena, in which senior Allyson DiMagno had a game-high 19 points and freshman forward Nia Marshall — the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Week — added 14 to go along with six steals.

The Terriers (6-2) have won four of their past five, including a 73-47 defeat of Columbia on Wednesday. Their only loss in that span was at the University of Miami. St. Francis is led by Eilidh Simpson (12.0 ppg.), Sarah Benedetti (11.6) and Jaymee Veney (11.5).

Cornell holds the lead in the all-time series with the Terriers, 6-1. The Big Red won the first-ever meeting, 74-48, in the 1985-86 season, and St. Francis earned its lone win in the series the following season, defeating Cornell, 49-44. Since then, the Big Red has won five consecutive meetings.

After Saturday’s game, the Big Red is off until Dec. 21, when it travels to Robert Morris.

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