Above, Errick Peck (Cornell '13), Ryan Wittman (Cornell '10) and Steve Donahue chat before tip off of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Game Wednesday night between Boston College and Purdue. Below, news and notes for Thursday.
- The Cornell Daily Sun summarizes the season of the Big Red in the paper's Winter Supplement:
On Feb. 16 of last year, junior forward Shonn Miller stepped calmly to the free throw line in a road game against Brown. He sunk both of them, putting his team comfortably up by seven with 1:42 left in the game. The Red would go on to defeat the Bears in that game and, at 5-3 in the Ivy League riding on a three-game winning streak, it looked as though Cornell was in good standing to finish in the top half of the conference.15 games later and nine games into another season, the Red is winless and Miller-less. Miller would play two more games after the win over Brown, but the next time the Red faced the Bears in Ithaca, Miller was no longer in the lineup. Cornell lost that game, 84-65, part of the six-game losing skid that ended the season.There is a new look to the Red this season that is refreshing, but has yet to provide results. Head coach Bill Courtney added a strong recruiting class of five freshman that, with the departure of Errick Peck ’13, Johnny Gray ’13, Eitan Chemerinski ’13, Miles Asafo-Adjei ’13 — all starters last season — and the loss of Miller to injury and junior Galal Cancer, who quit the team this fall, has proven a much-needed addition.“Any time you lose an All-Ivy player, it’s going to hurt the team,” senior guard Dom Scelfo said about Miller’s injury. “He was a leader and he really helped us out on defense, which is where we’re struggling right now.”The host of new faces for the Red has shown early promise, though, despite a still winless record. Two members of the freshman class in Robert Hatter and David Onuorah were starters through the first five games of the season. The two freshmen made both their names and their connection known in just the first minutes of the season against Syracuse. Hatter tossed an alley-oop into the air for a soaring Onuorah, who jammed it home for the first collegiate points of his career and the first points of the Red’s season.“Coming off the alley to start the game against Syracuse was one of the best moments of my life up to date, and it is definitely something I will never forget,” Onuorah said. “Going into the rest of the game, I felt energized to make a presence and contribute to the team in whatever way possible.”Hatter and Onuorah, along with fellow freshman Darryl Smith, have certainly done that in the early goings. Hatter has already won Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors twice this season, and exploded onto the collegiate basketball stage with a 32 point, five assist and six rebound effort against Loyola in just the second game of his career. Smith had a career-high 13 points in that game as well. Hatter is second on the team in scoring with 11.8 points per game and tied for first in assists with 3.2. Onuorah ranks third on the team in rebounding with 3.6 per game. For a group of five freshmen that is asked to make an impact on the collegiate level so soon, it is important for them to be a unit off the court as well. According to Onuorah, that came naturally to this year’s freshman class.“All five of us hang out together all the time. We always try to eat dinner together and we’re always hanging out whenever we have free time or even if we’re just studying or doing homework,” he said. “It’s always a great time when we’re together and I think we get along very well.”
According to Courtney, this freshman class was expected to make an impact early on.“Expectations for all our guys is to get better every day, and that’s what we’re working on right now,” Courtney said. “We’ve obviously had a slow start to the season as far as wins and losses are concerned, but more importantly when you have a group this young, and everybody is relatively inexperienced, you want to see growth every day and that’s what we’re trying to concentrate on doing.”With only four seniors on the roster, one of whom just joined the team this year, younger players have been forced to emerge as leaders on and off the court. Junior guard Devin Cherry was named a captain this season, along with senior forward Dwight Tarwater. As just a sophomore, Nolan Cressler has been asked to take on the bulk of the scoring, averaging 18.1 points through the first nine games. All of this amounts to a team that is still trying to find its identity, as young talents work to mesh with veteran players. According to Scelfo, this means that there is a high ceiling for the team.“We’re a young team with some younger guys and we have some things we need to learn down the stretch,” he said. “We need to have a lot more mental toughness going into games, we need to react better and it’s a mental thing we can control.”Though there is still ample time for it to play out, the combination of youth and experience is at least serving to develop the underclassmen.“All the guys have contributed to helping me adjust to the fast pace system that we play in,” Onuorah said. “I feel like I am learning how to do things faster and also I feel like my body is getting used to the daily grind of things.”Onuorah is the only freshman in the Red’s backcourt, as four of this year’s five recruits were guards. Joining him in the paint are Tarwater, juniors Nenad Tomic, Deion Giddens and Dave LaMore, and sophomore Braxston Bunce. Giddens has seen a spike in his playing time from last year, as he got his first start of the season against Siena. However, without Miller, the Red lacks a true and experienced post player. Tarwater has stepped up to the task this season, as he leads the team with 6.7 rebounds per game. Yet the 6’6” forward is more comfortable stepping out and hitting the three ball, as he is shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc, a team best.According to Courtney, finding a balance between points inside and production from guards will be important as the season wears on.“You always want to be able to score baskets on the inside, because that’s something you can do whether you’re having a great shooting night or not, and we are working on getting to that,” Courtney said. “Our strengths are in our guards, … but we can do things for the big guys like setting screens for them to get inside, not necessarily post up because they’re not necessarily great post up players yet.”Though the Red’s record is not where the team expected it to be at this point in the season, the team has had to deal with a grueling road schedule that included trips to No. 4 Syracuse, No. 7 Louisville and Notre Dame, a new addition to the perennially strong ACC conference. According to Scelfo, playing these top-tier teams helped the squad gain some much-needed experience.“It helped us a lot, especially with some of the younger guys, being able to compete with those guys helped the confidence,” he said. “No matter how many people there are at games from now on, they won’t get rattled.”The Red’s difficult schedule so far is not showing signs of letting up, as Ivy powerhouses Harvard and Princeton loom in the future. The Crimson, the reigning Ivy League champions who upset Arizona in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season, have only gotten stronger with the return of Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey to the roster after a brief hiatus due to the cheating scandal that rocked Harvard’s campus a year ago.Though the Red still has a lot of work ahead of it, the beauty of the Ivy League means that it will be a clean slate for the Red once the conference season starts on Jan. 18.“We’ve shown stretches where we can play with anyone, but when adversity hits we just have to play harder,” Scelfo said.
- Cornell Athletics notes:
CORNELL ALUMNI AND FRIENDS WEEKEND:
-The Cornell men's basketball program will host Alumni and Friends Weekend from Dec. 6-8 in Ithaca.
-Included will be a Friday evening reception, Saturday's game against Saint Francis (Pa.) and a postgame reception, then Sunday's annual alumni game.
-Cornell will honor the 1953-54 and 2008-09 Big Red championship teams that weekend.
- Cornell RPI Watch: The RPI (Rating Percentage Index) is a measure of strength of schedule and how a team does against that schedule. It does not consider the margin of victory, but only whether or not a team won and where the game was played (home/away/neutral court). The formula is 25% team winning percentage (WP), 50% opponents' average winning percentage (OWP), and 25% opponents' opponents' average winning percentage (OOWP). (See: CollegeRPI.com for a further explanation of the formula.) The RPI may be the most influential factor in NCAA Tournament seeding. Cornell's RPI rank as of December 5, 2013 is No. 304 out of 344 total Division I teams. While neither the Ken Pomeroy or the Sagarin Rankings (USA Today) are used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, the KenPom.com site ranks Cornell No. 330 in the nation, while the Sagarin Rankings (USA Today) have Cornell at No. 337. Both sites are predominantly used by fans and the media.
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