FOLLOW THE BIG RED
Game #17: Columbia at Cornell
Tip off: Saturday, Jan. 17, at 4:30 p.m. (approx.)
Site: Newman Arena (4,473), Ithaca, N.Y.
2014-15 Records: Columbia (8-6, 0-0 Ivy); Cornell (8-8, 0-0 Ivy)
Series Record: Columbia leads 124-98
Last Meeting: Columbia won 74-58, Jan. 25, 2014 in Ithaca, N.Y.
Radio: 98.7 FM The Buzzer (Barry Leonard, Eric Taylor '05)
HEAD COACH BILL COURTNEY
Cornell head coach Bill Courtney is in his fifth season at Cornell (45-86, .344; 19-37 Ivy, .339) ... Courtney became the fifth Robert E. Gallagher '44 Coach of Men's Basketball at Cornell on April 23, 2010.
The 14-Game Ivy League Tournament always has some surprises, and the Cornell men's basketball team will look to become a top storyline when it opens conference action against Columbia on Saturday, Jan. 17 at 4:30 p.m. at Newman Arena. Barry Leonard and Eric Taylor '05 will provide coverage on 98.7 FM The Buzzer, with live video available on the Ivy League Digital Network.
Picked to finish eighth in the Ivy League preseason media poll, head coach Bill Courtney's Big Red team is one of the most improved in the country. Cornell is 8-8 a year removed from a 2-26 campaign and has septupled its win total from a year ago against Division I teams and has the looks of a team on the rebound, playing suffocating defense (.379 field goal percentage defense, .320 3-point percentage defense, 62.3 ppg. allowed, 4.8 blocked shots per game) in its 16 contests. The Big Red has limited foes to below 40 percent shooting in 11 of its 16 games. Half of its eight losses have come by five points or less or in overtime.
The biggest difference from last year is the return of first-team All-Ivy selection Shonn Miller, who missed the 2013-14 season with a shoulder injury. The 6-7 forward returned with a bang, recording 21 points and 13 rebounds in the upset of George Mason and has been especially dominant over his last seven games, averaging 21.7 points and 9.4 rebounds with a career scoring high of 28 points at Radford and a best of 15 rebounds at Siena. The two-time Ivy League Player of the Week paces the conference in scoring (17.2 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.) and free-throw percentage (.872) while ranking near the top of the circuit in blocks (2.0 bpg.) and steals (1.1 spg.) to make him an early contender for top Ivy League honors.
Other big differences in Cornell's quick turnaround include the return of senior Galal Cancer (9.2 ppg., 4.1 rpg., 3.6 apg., 1.0 spg.) after a year away from basketball, the move of senior Devin Cherry to point guard (10.1 ppg., 4.6 rpg., 3.8 apg., 1.0 spg.) and the maturation of sophomores Robert Hatter (12.4 ppg., 2.5 rpg., 1.4 spg.) and David Onuorah (2.4 ppg., 4.0 rpg., 1.3 bpg.). A number of other players have added key minutes as reserves over the first 16 contests. Among them are sophomore guards JoJo Fallas, who has become one of the conference's most dangerous shooters off the bench (3.9 ppg., 17 3-pointers, .396 3-point percentage), and Darryl Smith (3.3 pg., 1.9 rpg.). Together with the starting trio, the five make for one of the most talented and deepest backcourts in the Ancient Eight. The senior big man trio of Deion Giddens, Dave LaMore and Ned Tomic are combining to average 4.6 ppg. and 5.3 rpg. and have provided leadership on and off the court.
A WIN OVER COLUMBIA WOULD:
• improve the Big Red's record to 9-8.
• give Cornell a win in its Ivy League opener and move the team to 21-38 all-time in Ivy openers.
• make the Big Red 5-3 in its last eight league openers.
• extend Cornell's win streak to three games, matching a season-long mark
• make Cornell 6-1 in home games this season.
• cut Columbia's edge in the all-time series to 124-99.
• be the 1,220th in program history (1,219-1,360 in 116 seasons, .472).
• Columbia enters the weekend with an 8-6 record, though they are only 2-3 in their last five games and 1-4 in road contests.
• Columbia was chosen third in the Ivy League's preseason media poll.
• Ivy League Player of the Year candidate Maodo Lo enters the weekend in a virtual tie atop the conference's scoring charts with Cornell's Shonn Miller (17.2 ppg.). He is also averaging 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor, 41 percent from 3-point range and 74 percent from the line.
• Though Lo is Columbia's lone double figure scorer, six other players are averaging between 4.6 and 9.6 points per game in a balanced offense.
• The Lions are surrendering just 59.4 points per game and outrebound opponents by three per game (34.4-31.4).
• Columbia is coming off a 21-13 season that saw the Lions reach the quarterfinals of the CIT.
• Fifth-year head coach Kyle Smith has posted a 70-63 overall record on the sidelines for the Lions, including leading the team to its first postseason appearance since 1967-68 a year ago.
THE CORNELL-COLUMBIA SERIES:
• Columbia leads the all-time series between the programs 124-98.
• Cornell has won 16 of the last 24 meetings between the squads, though Columbia has now won six of the last eight contests.
• The Lions swept last season's home-and-home series, including a 74-58 victory in Ithaca.
THE IVY OPENER:
•Cornell opens its 59th official Ivy League season (the league was formally started prior to the 1956-57 season) with a 20-38 record in conference openers.
• Cornell is 15-20 against Columbia in league openers and 15-17 at home.
• The programs' records against other opponents in Ivy openers: Brown (0-3), Dartmouth (1-4), Harvard (2-5), Penn (0-2), Princeton (1-1) and Yale (1-2).
• Going back to its Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League (a forerunner of the Ivy League), Cornell's record is 45-64 in conference openers (25-28 in the EIBL).
LAST TIME VS. COLUMBIA:
• Columbia closed the game on a 23-7 run to earn the season sweep of the Ivy-opening travel partner series with Cornell, taking a 74-58 victory over the Big Red on Jan. 25, 2014 at Newman Arena.
• Devin Cherry had 12 points and five rebounds to lead three Cornell double figure scorers, with Robert Hatter added 11 points and Ned Tomic coming off the bench for 11 points and seven rebounds.
• Nolan Cressler had six points, six rebounds and four assists for a Cornell team that shot 38 percent overall and just 7-of-19 from the free-throw line.
• Columbia shot 50 percent from the floor, though the Ivy League's top 3-point shooting team was limited to 2-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc.
• The Lions were able to feast from the free-throw line, however, hitting 26-of-30 from the charity stripe.
• Maodo Lo scored 20 points, while Cory Osetkowski had 19 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots.
• Alex Rosenberg (17 points, five rebounds, four assists) and Grant Mullins (12 points, five rebounds) also reached double figures.
CORNELL EIGHTH IN IVY PRESEASON POLL:
• The Cornell men's basketball team was picked to finish eighth when the 2014-15 Ivy League preseason media poll was announced during the annual conference call with the league's eight head coaches.
• Harvard, last year's league champion, was the unanimous preseason favorite, picking up all 17 first-place votes and 136 points total.
• Yale was chosen second (108 points), while Columbia (94 points) and Princeton (88 points) weren't far behind in third and fourth.
• Brown was chosen fifth (75 points), while Dartmouth was sixth with 47 points. Rounding out the field was Penn in seventh with 39 points and Cornell in eighth with 25 points.
• Two media members from each school and one national representative voted in the poll.
LAST TIME OUT:
• The Cornell men's basketball team rewrote the record book, closing its non-conference record at 8-8 after a thoroughly dominant 107-29 victory over Division III foe Alfred State on Jan. 10 at Newman Arena.
• Cornell's 107 point total was the seventh-highest total in school history and the most in 22 years.
• Its field goals made (36), 3-point field goals made (14), assists (27) and steals (16) totals all ranked among the top 20 single-game marks in more than 100 years of Big Red basketball.
• Shonn Miller and Devin Cherry each led the way with 18 points, with Miller adding four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block and Cherry dishing six assists, grabbing five boards and collecting a steal.
• Robert Hatter was also in double figures (13 points) and chipped in four steals and three assists.
• Cornell shot 49 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range (14-of-28), ourebounded the Pioneers 47-31 and had 27 assists and just four turnovers.
• Cornell held the Pioneers to 29 points, the fewest surrendered in a contest since Sampson Naval Hospital scored 29 in a 68-29 Big Red victory on Dec. 1, 1945.
• It allowed Alfred State to shoot just 21 percent overall, 17 percent from beyond the arc and forced 29 turnovers - scoring an amazing 46 points off those miscues.
• The 78-point margin of victory was the largest for the Big Red in any game in school history, besting an 82-11 victory over Rome Air Force Base to open the 1943-44 season.
• Cornell's defense has spearheaded the Big Red's turnaround, as its points per game allowed, field goal percentage defense overall and from 3-point range are significantly down, while its steals and blocked shots are way up over last season.
• The Big Red is limiting opponents to .379 shooting over its first 16 games. In all, Cornell recorded a .495 field goal percentage defense mark in 2013-14
• Cornell has allowed opponents to shoot 50 percent or better 15 times in 28 games a season ago, while this year it has held 11 of its first 16 opponents under 40 percent shooting and just one opponent has hit 50 percent of its shots.
Scoring Def. FG% Def. 3pt FG Def. Steals Blocks
2013-14 78.4 (331) .495 (341) .409 (345) 4.2 (338) 3.5 (267)
2014-15 62.3 (91) .379 (31) .320 (167) 6.4 (183) 4.8 (61)
2013-14 78.4 (331) .495 (341) .409 (345) 4.2 (338) 3.5 (267)
2014-15 62.3 (91) .379 (31) .320 (167) 6.4 (183) 4.8 (61)
NOTES TO KNOW:
• Cornell has already won six more games than the entire 2013-14 campaign when it went 2-26. Only 16 teams in the country have won more games this season than last year (as of Jan. 12), topped by Cornell's +6. Lamar has improved five games (9-7 from 4-26), while TCU has improved to 13-3 after going 9-22 last season (+4 games).
• Senior Shonn Miller leads the Ivy League in scoring (17.2 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.) and free-throw percentage (.872). He looks to become the seventh Ivy player to lead the circuit in both since 1961-62, but the third in the last five years.
• Miller blocked a pair of shots against George Mason to surpass the 100 career block milestone. He became the fifth player in Cornell history to reach that plateau and now has 131 to his name.
• Miller had three steals at Radford, pushing his career total to 101. He became the first player in Cornell history to post 100 career steals and 100 career blocks.
• Miller is averaging 21.7 points and 9.4 rebounds in his last seven contests.
• Over the team's last seven games, Cornell is shooting an outstanding .819 from the free-throw line (131-of-160).
• The Big Red has posted three of the top 20 free-throw shooting percentage efforts in school history over the first 16 games. Cornell tied a school record with a 13-for-13 effort (one of eight perfect nights with at least 10 attempts) against UMass Lowell and had the best day with a miss in going 21-of-22 for .955 against Penn State. Cornell hit 26-of-28 free throws (.929) in the win over Howard.
• Cornell's 14-point margin of victory over Binghamton (68-54) was its largest in a road game under head coach Bill Courtney and the most by any Cornell team since a 79-59 victory at Yale on March 6, 2010. That mark didn't last long, as the Big Red dropped Siena by 17 (75-58) in Albany 23 days later.
• In his last nine contests, senior Galal Cancer is averaging 5.2 assists. He had just 10 total assists in his first seven games.
• The rally from a 17-point deficit against Colgate was the largest overcome by a Big Red team this century. It is the largest overcome by a Bill Courtney-coached team, besting the 14-point first half deficit it rallied from in an 85-84 win over Yale on Feb. 10, 2012.
• When Cornell knocked off George Mason, the Big Red defeated its 35th program that has advanced to an NCAA Final Four. The Patriots reached the national semifinals in 2006.
• The Big Red hit 14 3-pointers in the win over Alfred State, the most in a game since hitting 16 in an 83-70 loss at Western Michigan on Nov. 29, 2013.
• Second-year assistant coach Jon Jaques was a starter and senior captain on the 2009-10 Cornell team that advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.
• Cornell will play 10 games against teams coming off 20-win seasons and 11 against teams who competed in postseason last year (three vs. NCAA teams, five vs. CIT teams, four vs. CBI teams).
• Dwight Tarwater '14 graduated from Cornell last spring with a degree in Applied Economics and Management and is playing an extra year at California-Berkeley. Through 17 games (11-6), Tarwater is averaging 3.5 points and 2.6 rebounds while playing 15.8 minutes per game as a reserve.
• It is the second straight year a Big Red men's basketball player has used his fifth and final year of eligibility at a BCS school, as Errick Peck '13 spent the 2013-14 campaign at Purdue. He served as a captain and part-time starter for the Boilermakers while averaging 4.6 points and 4.4 rebounds and shooting 48 percent from the floor in 32 contests (10 starts).
• Members of the Cornell basketball team represent 13 states and one Canadian province.
• Cornell has played in 46 different states, as well as in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Australia and France. The only states the Big Red has not played in are Alaska, North Dakota, Mississippi and Wyoming.
• The Big Red hit the road for the last time in January when they visit Columbia on Saturday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at Levien Gymnasium.