Saturday, January 17, 2015

News and Notes: Saturday Edition

Below, news and notes...

  • The Ivy League announced a new television deal which includes two televised home games for Cornell, including:
Friday, Feb. 6
Penn at Cornell, 8 pm
American Sports Network

Friday, Feb. 27
Harvard at Cornell, 6:30 pm
CBS Sports Network
On the deal, Cornell Athletics notes:
ITHACA, N.Y. -- The Cornell men's basketball team will have a pair of Ivy League home games televised as part of the Ivy League Basketball Television Package the conference office announced today. The Big Red will be featured nationally in front of a Newman Arena crowd on Friday, Feb. 6 vs. Penn and Friday, Feb. 27 vs. preseason league favorite Harvard.

The game against Penn will be televised on the American Sports Network and has moved from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. The contest will also be simulcast on the Ivy League Digital Network. The matchup with the Crimson will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network and will not be available live on ILDN. That game will move from a 7 p.m. tip-off to 6:30 p.m.

The CBS Sports Network schedule features five men's games, showcasing all eight schools, and one women's game as the network will broadcast the Princeton-Penn men's and women's doubleheader on Tuesday, March 10. American Sports Network is showcasing all eight schools as well across seven men's games and two women's games. The All games on American Sports Network, including the Cornell at Yale women's game on Sunday, Feb. 1 at 1 p.m., will also be streamed live on The Ivy League Digital Network (ILDN).
  • On the pace of college basketball games, from the Post Standard: "Cornell played the whole 35-second shot clock and it was hard to stay mentally in it," SU guard Ron Patterson said. "You just gotta stick to it. But it is difficult."
Columbia visits Cornell in Ivy League men's hoop opener

To hear Columbia men's basketball coach Kyle Smith tell it, Cornell might just pose more questions than his talented Lions squad has answers.
Smith, who last season guided Columbia to 21 wins and the program's first postseason berth in 46 years, is impressed with the much improved Big Red's three-guard attack as well as its Ivy League Player of the Year candidate, senior Shonn Miller.
"Galal (Cancer) has really helped them with their perimeter, they give you a three-guard attack that can really dribble-drive you," fifth-year coach Smith said. "We're not the fastest guys on the perimeter, but we're pretty big and long, but their quickness in transition and in play-making ability is good."
Smith praised the early play of senior guard Devin Cherry, converted this year to the point, as well as talented sophomore Robert Hatter, an aggressive defender "who can score 30 ... and plays with a lot of emotion," Smith said.
"I don't know if we've seen a better perimeter group," he added, "and then you've got Shonn Miller ... they're good. Simple as that."
Cornell (8-8) is certainly better than it was a year ago, when injuries and other losses spiraled into a nightmarish 2-26 final record (1-13 Ivy League). But Saturday's 4:30 p.m. league opener at Newman Arena with the Lions (8-6) will begin to tell more of the story for fifth-year coach Bill Courtney's Cornell squad.
Half of the league opened conference play last Saturday, with four-time defending champion Harvard (10-4) defeating Dartmouth, 57-46, and perennial power Princeton (7-9) getting a career-high 23 points from sophomore reserve guard Henry Caruso and knocking off Pennsylvania, 78-74. Caruso earned Ivy Player of the Week honors.
The other half of the league begins the "14-Game Tournament," as the league schedule is called by Ivy followers, on Saturday with Columbia-Cornell and Yale (11-6) at Brown (8-8) in a 2 p.m. tip-off.
All eight of the league's coaches were on its mid-season conference call Thursday and all expect battle after battle as the season unfolds and a champion is determined. The Ivy is the only major Division I conference without a tournament.
"I think our league is very strong and has been strong," Harvard eighth-year coach Tommy Amaker said. "Sometimes it's been viewed a little bit that we've been able to have our way, and we've won our league but it's been incredibly challenging every year that I've been in this great conference."
"We don't have any bad teams in our conference," said Yale coach James Jones, the dean of Ivy men's basketball coaches who's beginning his 16th season in New Haven, Conn. "I look around other leagues, and there are a couple of days where you don't have to be at your best to win, and we look at Cornell last year and they struggled because they had an unbelievable amount of injuries."
The Big Red, picked eighth in the preseason media poll, has certainly taken a step forward from last year, thanks in large part to the return of Miller, who missed the last four games of his sophomore year and his entire junior season with a shoulder injury. Cornell went 2-30 without Miller, with one of those victories coming against Division III Oberlin last January.
Courtney said Miller was still getting himself into shape as this season began, but has turned a corner over in recent weeks. In seven games since mid-December, the 6-7 forward from Euclid, Ohio, is averaging 21.6 points and 9.4 rebounds and shares the Ivy scoring lead with Columbia's Maodo Lo at 17.2 ppg.
"He's really taken another step," Courtney said of Miller. "He got himself in great shape, he's able to play much harder for more extended periods of time. And I think what might get lost in the shuffle is how good a defender he is, he can guard 1 through 5 (point guard through center) and is a tremendous shot blocker and perimeter defender."
Courtney is taking part of the responsibility for Miller's success by trying to keep his star from playing all but a couple of minutes each game.
"Especially at the pace we're trying to play," Courtney said, "if we can get him down to 32 minutes a game, where he's playing all out for those 32 minutes, then he becomes that much more effective at both ends of the floor."
Both Cornell and Columbia are coming off blowout victories at the hands of considerably lesser opponents. Cornell set a team record for margin of victory in a 107-29 thumping of Div. III Alfred State, while the Lions set a Levien Gym scoring record in a 112-63 defeat of Central Pennsylvania College, a member of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association.
Courtney said there was definite value in playing the Pioneers.
"Going into a game where you know the opponent is a little undermanned against you, you want to make sure you do things correctly," he said. "And I was very pleased with our group, they showed a maturity, no matter what the score was, to do things correctly.
"And it's also great to be able to get guys who haven't played as much the opportunity to get into game action," he said. "They work hard in practice every day, so to get them some game action is great reward for them. You never know when you're going to need those guys."
Columbia — which threw a major scare into No. 1-ranked Kentucky back on Dec. 10 before falling, 56-46 — is led by junior guard Lo and freshman guard Kyle Castlin (9.6 ppg.), who was thrust into the lineup due to injuries and has responded well.
"Kyle's a special guy," Coach Smith said. "It's really hard for freshmen, especially with the academics that we all have in our league, but it's an attitude and work ethic that's earned him the opportunity."
Cornell and Columbia play the second game of their annual home-and-home series next Saturday in New York. The two-game Ivy weekends commence for Cornell Jan. 30-31 when it travels to Brown and Yale.

CU men's basketball
Saturday's game: Columbia (8-6) at Cornell (8-8)
When: 4:30 p.m.
Where: Newman Arena (4,473), Ithaca
Radio: The Buzzer (98.7)
 Shonn Miller and Big Red’s Resurgence in the Ivy League
When a team’s best player goes down, it’s never easy to pick up the pieces. Late in the 2012-2013 season, Cornell’s star forward Shonn Miller (a sophomore at the time) went down with a shoulder injury and ended up missing the final four games of the season. With hopes of returning for the 2013-2014 season, Miller had the summer months to get healthier, but when early November rolled by, his shoulder injury still prevented him from playing the entire year. Cornell suffered, winning only 7.1% of their games with the record 2-26. It certainly was a let-down year and a note Miller didn’t want to end on. He continued to work until he was healthy, so when this 2014-2015 season arrived, Miller was determined to make sure people remembered his name and how dominant of a player he truly is. Remember… this is a player that, as an underclassman, led the Ivy League in block percentage, steals per game, and was second in player efficiency rating, blocks, and defensive rebounding percentage. Shonn Miller is a proven monster on the court and his affect on his Big Red hasn’t gone unnoticed.
With sixteen games under their belt, the Big Red stand at 8-8 overall against their non-conference schedule before heading into their stretch of Ivy League conference matchups to end the season. How will they fare? Time will tell, but let’s take a look at how much of a difference Shonn Miller has made this season, statistically. They say defense wins championships, and if Cornell wants any shot of snagging this year’s Ivy League title, they’re going to have to keep up their superior defensive play. Since Miller’s return, it’s become evident that Cornell’s defense is their strong suit. The Big Red are allowing opponents a mere 62.2 points per game – for some perspective on Miller’s defensive presence, their opponents scored 78.4 points per game last year. That’s a very significant difference; so, how is Miller doing it? Through being an absolute stat machine, elevating the play of his teammates, and overall just being a nightmare as a defensive matchup. The 6’7” forward is averaging nearly 2 blocks per game and is currently second in the Ivy League with a defensive rating of 86.5 (defensive rating describes an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions). On top of this impressive stat, Miller is currently first in the Ivy League in defensive win shares with 1.4 (this statistic describes an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his defense). To say that Miller’s defense has earned Cornell nearly 2 wins through 16 games is pretty extraordinary, and certainly cannot be overlooked.
In addition to his outstanding defense, Miller is also a top-notch offensive weapon and rebounder – his current stat line is 17.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.4 APG, all while shooting an efficient 47.2% from the field (his effective field goal percentage, which adjusts for 3-pt FGs, is closer to 50%). Might I add that he leads the Ivy League in points, free throws, free throw percentage, and is second in points produced per game. All signs point to the fact that Miller is a powerhouse for the Big Red, but at this point, it feels like I’m rattling off a bunch of impressive stats, which definitely is the case, but Miller is so much more than a stat-stuffer, who, by the way, currently has the second best player efficiency rating in the Ivy League at 26.4 and is sitting at an impressive 1.5 offensive win shares – making him worth about 3 wins through 16 games… just wow! That really is incredible considering the season isn’t even halfway over, but where Miller’s value lies especially is in his ability to elevate the play of his teammates. Since returning to the floor this year, many of Cornell’s roster has seen improved play. Guard, Robert Hatter, started for the Big Red last year gathering the second-most minutes on the team – he ended the season with an 11 PER and averaged 9 PPG/1.6 RPG/2.1 APG on 40.6% shooting – this year, with Miller healthy on the court, his stock has risen as he is now sitting at an 18.6 PER averaging 12.4/2.5 RPG/0.7 APG on 40.4% shooting. This is only one example, but the trend is quite evident across many other teammates. Another angle we can take a look at is team statistics; here’s a quick breakdown of the 2013-2014 season compared to the 2014-2015 season:
PPG 64.1 78.4 -14.3
FG % 41 49.5 -8.5
3pt FG % 31.8 40.9 -9.1
FT % 66.4 72.3 -5.9
Rebounds 31.4 36.1 -4.7
Assists 10.7 14.8 -4.1
TO 12 10.4 1.6
Steals 4.2 5.9 -1.7
Blocks 2.8 3.5 -0.7
Win % 7.1

PPG 66.2 62.2 4
FG % 41.3 37.9 3.4
3pt FG % 34.3 32 2.3
FT % 73.3 69.3 4
Rebounds 35.8 35.6 0.2
Assists 11.8 10.8 1
TO 14 12.1 1.9
Steals 6.4 6.6 -0.2
Blocks 4.8 2.9 1.9
Win % 50

It’s easy to see how much better this team has gotten with the return of Miller – these stats paint a vivid picture of how much of a difference one player can make, but then again, I have yet to mention the steady play of guard Galal Cancer, another senior who missed the entire season last year – Cancer’s play has been quite impressive putting up terrific numbers as well and contributing 1.3 win shares so far this season.
There are a lot of good things going for Big Red basketball right now, especially after coming off an astronomical 107-29 win over Alfred State before conference play begins. Momentum is on Cornell’s side as they’re sitting at 3rd place in the Ivy League. A couple of big time wins over Harvard and Yale may lead to another tournament appearance for the Big Red, as long as Miller stays healthy and keeps dominating the competition. Fans should be excited for the rest of the season, and even more excited just to watch this man destroy anyone in his path.
Top Ivy scorers to face off as men’s basketball travels to Cornell

The Ivy League’s two leading scorers will face off in Ithaca, New York, on Saturday when the men’s basketball team kicks off its conference season against Cornell.
The Big Red (8-8) was projected to finish at the bottom of the league this season after last year’s dismal 2-26 record, but Cornell has had a steady showing in nonconference play. The Big Red’s success has been, in large part, thanks to senior forward Shonn Miller, who missed all of the 2013-14 season due to a shoulder injury.
The Lions (8-6) will have their hands full trying to contain Cornell’s star, who leads the league with 8.3 rebounds per game and is tied with Columbia’s junior guard Maodo Lo, with 17.2 points per game to lead the league in scoring.
During Thursday’s Ivy League midseason media teleconference, Light Blue head coach Kyle Smith was one of several coaches to identify Miller as a conference Player of the Year candidate.
“He’s too good of a player to just sit back and think you can handle him one-on-one, because he can shoot threes, very good face-up guy, he can score in the post, he can draw fouls,” Smith said. “With good players, sometimes you can’t necessarily stop what they do well, but we’ll have to give it a shot.”
Defensively, Columbia’s backcourt will also be challenged by Big Red guards Galal Cancer, Devin Cherry, and Robert Hatter.
The speed of Cancer and Cherry and their play-making ability—they average 3.6 and 3.8 assists per game, respectively—present a threat to the Lions, who aren’t as quick on the perimeter, Smith said. Hatter, who averages 12.4 points per game, rounds out the Big Red backcourt as a long-range scoring threat.
Offensively, Columbia will look to Lo, the only Lion with a double-digit scoring average, for points, as it has all season.
In the Light Blue’s Jan. 6 game against Stony Brook, the Seawolves held Lo scoreless for the first 32 minutes of the game and allowed him a total of just seven points. Though senior guard Steve Frankoski stepped up and tallied 16 points off the bench, Stony Brook went on to win 70-61, giving the Lions only their second home loss of the year.
Cornell’s defense, which has allowed opponents 37.9 percent shooting from the field and 32 percent shooting from beyond the arc, will likely give Lo the same attention that Stony Brook’s did. Consequently, the Light Blue’s other offensive threats—namely Frankoski, first-year guard Kyle Castlin, and senior center Cory Osetkowski—will have to step up.
During Thursday’s midseason teleconference, Cornell head coach Bill Courtney noted the impressive performances from Castlin and Osetkowski during nonconference play. In Saturday’s matchup, Osetkowski may be able to exploit his size advantage in the paint, and while it will be Castlin’s first taste of Ancient Eight competition, Smith said he is confident in the first-year starter.
“He stepped up with Alex [Rosenberg] and Grant [Mullins] being gone, and we felt good about him coming in, and he’s just been able to perform,” Smith said. “He’s going to find out that … the stakes go up a little bit and the intensity too, and I hope he’s prepared.”
While Columbia breezed past Division II opponent Central Penn in its most recent contest, the Light Blue has had mixed results of late. Since resuming play on Dec. 20 after a 10-day break, the Lions are an even 3-3 with one of their losses coming from defending national champion UConn.
Saturday’s game in Ithaca will set the tone for the Lions’ Ivy season, and it will test a Columbia team that is only 1-4 to the road this year.
Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
 Ivy League Play Commences This Saturday at Cornell for Men's Basketball

COLUMBIA’S STATUSThe Lions closed non-conference play with a 112-63 win over Central Penn Saturday. The point total was the highest in the history of Levien Gym and the most since 1977. Maodo Lo led five players in double-figures with 20 points, while Kendall Jackson and Noah Springwater established career-highs with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
CORNELL’S STATUSThe Big Red check in with an 8-8 overall record and closed their non-conference schedule with a pair of wins over Howard and Alfred State. Cornell is one of the most improved teams in the country after winning just two games in 2013-14, thanks in large part to the return of senior forward Shonn Miller, who missed last season due to injury.
SERIES HISTORYColumbia and Cornell will meet for the 222nd time, dating back to the 1902-03 season. The Lions hold a 124-97 record against the Big Red and have won six of the last eight meetings. Last season, Columbia swept the season series for the first time since 2011.
COLUMBIA IN IVY LEAGUE OPENERSThe Lions are 27-31 all-time in Ivy League openers and are 3-1 under the direction of Kyle Smith, including last season’s 71-61 win over Cornell in Levien Gym.
A FAMILIAR FACECornell assistant coach Jon Jaques spent the 2012-13 season on the Columbia sidelines as a graduate manager before accepting his current position at his alma mater over the summer. Jaques was a member of three Ivy League Championship teams  with the Big Red and emerged as a starter on the 2009-10 NCAA Tournament squad that made a run to the “Sweet 16.” 
LEVIEN GYM RECORD Columbia’s 112 points against Central Penn established a new Levien Gymnasium record, eclipsing the old mark of 109 set by the Lions on Dec. 29, 2007 against Polytechnic. It is the highest single-game point total since the program set the record of 118 on Jan. 12, 1977 against Wagner. 
MOBB DEEPIn their last five games, the Lions’ bench has outscored its opponents’ reserves, 185-69. Against Hofstra, Columbia held a 33-4 edge in bench points. At UConn, the trio of Jeff Coby, Steve Frankoski and Luke Petrasek teamed up for 27 of Columbia’s 29 bench scoring. The Lions posted a 17-0 edge in bench points in their win over Colgate, they held a 24-8 advantage against Stony Brook on Jan. 6 and outscored Central Penn 68-20.
AGENT 0First-year Kyle Castlin’s scoring average of 9.6 points per game and field goal percentage of 49.5 percent leads all Ancient Eight neophytes. He has started all 13 games for Columbia and has a pair of Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors under his belt (Dec. 22, Jan. 5).
TRENDING UPWARDAfter a slow shooting start, Columbia looks like it is returning to its 2013-14 form, converting on .461 of its attempts from the field and .384 from beyond the arc in its last eight games. In their first six games, the Lions were just shooting at a .409 clip overall and .296 from downtown.
FRANKIE SAYS RELAXA big reason for the Lions’ spike in shooting has been the play of Steve Frankoski. In his last six games, the tri-captain is averaging 12.5 points off the bench, while shooting 55.1 percent from the floor and 16-of-32 (50 percent) from beyond the arc. His hot stretch has moved him up to sixth on the all-time 3-point field goal list (149) and is two shy of cracking the top-five.
GLUE GUYEvery team needs one and that’s what the Lions have in junior Isaac Cohen. The 6-4 guard is currently second in the Ivy League in assists at 4.7 per game and is pulling down 6.1 rebounds per game, which is the best among guards in the Ancient Eight. Cohen narrowly missed posting just the third Ivy League triple-double ever with his eight-point, 10-rebound, nine-assist effort against Stony Brook on Jan. 6.
MORE ON IKEIsaac Cohen’s 10 assists against Colgate was the most for a Lion since Brian Barbour posted 12 against Elon on Dec. 29, 2012. He also handed out five or more assists in Columbia’s first five games this season, the longest stretch for a Columbia player since Barbour accomplished the feat in six-straight spanning two seasons (last five games of 2011-12 and first game of 2012-13). The Orlando, Florida, native also had 10 rebounds in back-to-back contests against Lehigh and FDU, becoming the first player to record double-figure rebounds in consecutive games since Mark Cisco hauled in 10 or more in three-straight during Ivy League play in 2012.
SWITCHING IT UP Columbia changed its starting lineup for the first time against Colgate on Dec. 28, inserting Jeff Coby into the first five in place of Chris McComber. Since then, the Lions have used a different quintet to open things up in three of the last four games.

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