ITHACA, N.Y.: Just four games into the Ivy League's 14-game tournament, Cornell will have its chance to jump squarely into the conference race when it hosts conference leader Yale on Saturday, Jan. 31 at 6 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.
Cornell scored the game's final 10 points to rally for a 57-49 victory over Brown on Friday night. The Big Red limited the Bears to 30 percent shooting overall and 25 percent from 3-point range while blocking 11 shots, the third-highest single-game total in school history. The Bulldogs moved to 3-0 in conference play for the first time in 14 years with a 63-59 win at Columbia behind 28 points, eight rebounds and three blocks from conference Player of the Year candidate Justin Sears.
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 10-9 a year removed from a 2-26 campaign. The Big Red has the looks of a team on the rebound, playing suffocating defense (.375 field goal percentage defense, .310 3-point percentage defense, 60.0 ppg. allowed, 5.3 blocked shots per game) in its 19 contests. The Big Red has limited foes to below 40 percent shooting in 13 of its 19 games. Five of its nine 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 is a two-time Ivy League Player of the Week who paces the conference in scoring (16.3 ppg.) and ranks second in rebounding (7.8 rpg.). Miller also ranks in the top10 in the conference in free-throw percentage (second, .860), blocks (third, 2.0 bpg.) and steals (10th, 1.3 spg.) to make him a contender for top Ivy League honors. He has posted seven 20-point games, six double figure rebounding contests and six double-double efforts in 2014-15.
Other big differences in Cornell's quick turnaround include the return of senior Galal Cancer (9.2 ppg., 3.9 rpg., 3.3 apg., 1.1 spg.) after a year away from basketball, the move of senior Devin Cherry to point guard (10.1 ppg., 4.6 rpg., 3.7 apg., 0.9 spg.) and the maturation of sophomores Robert Hatter (11.9 ppg., 2.7 rpg., 1.4 spg.) and David Onuorah (2.2 ppg., 4.1 rpg., 1.6 bpg.). A number of other players have added key minutes as reserves over the first 19 contests. Among them are sophomore guards JoJo Fallas, who has become one of the conference's most dangerous shooters off the bench (3.4 ppg., 18 3-pointers, .391 3-point percentage), and Darryl Smith (3.2 pg., 2.0 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 5.1 rpg. and have provided leadership on and off the court.