- Shonn Miller is nominated for the CollegeInsider.com Lou Henson Award. The site writes, "The 6-foot-7 senior is no longer a well-kept secret in the Ivy League. A preseason First-Team All-Ivy League selection, Miller has helped the Big Red get off to one of its' best starts in years. That helped Miller get named to Lou Henson Award Mid-Season Watch List. The Ivy League’s Rookie of the Year in 2011-12 missed all of last season due to injury, but his return has gotten the attention of opponents and NBA Scouts. According to CI’s Angela Lento, ‘if Shonn Miller played in the ACC everybody would be talking about him.’"
- The Ithaca Journal reports, "Cornell University Police are investigating reports of laptops, cash and cellphones being stolen Saturday from the visiting team’s locker room during the Cornell vs. Columbia basketball game. Deputy Chief of Cornell Police David Honan said the thefts were reported by the visiting team and occurred during the Cornell vs. Columbia basketball game that started at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. All of the thefts occurred sometime between 5:11 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. in Bartels Hall, according to a police report. In the crime log, there were three reports of grand larceny for laptops valued between $1,000 and $1,740. One report also noted that cash was stolen. There were also three reports of petit larceny of cellphones ranging in price from $300 to $700.Honan said the police do believe these cases are connected.No further details are being released as the investigation is ongoing, police said. Anyone with information should call the Cornell University Police at (607) 255-1111."
- The Columbia Spectator writes:
We have a big—almost unprecedented—few weekends coming up in Morningside Heights. In fact, men’s basketball is really gripping the nation, as proven by this exclusive deleted excerpt from President Obama’s, CC ’83, State of the Union Address on Tuesday.
“…However, we have a long way to go until there are free community colleges. Did you see what Cornell is charging? And did you see they were dispatched by my Columbia Lions this weekend? We didn’t make it easy on ourselves, but a win’s a win. That’s why, with five home games on the horizon, I must call on you, my fellow Columbians:
We, too, are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. 15 years into this century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and again begun the work of remaking Columbia men’s basketball. We’ve laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s start the work right now and make Levien Gymnasium a hostile environment the next few weekends. Our men’s basketball team deserves it, and we can make a difference this season.
I would offer optimism for other parts of my alma mater, but they won’t even offer me a clue into the process or the candidates for the new athletic director or football head coach searches. It’s even too top secret for the guy they want to build a library for….”
Now, I know that the president has not always been fond of Columbia, but it is difficult to say why he excluded this excerpt and repurposed it for later in his speech. However, in the buildup to this weekend, one thing remains clear: there is more at stake for the Light Blue than usual for this season.
In the last five years, there has been approximately one home game during the semester when Columbia still had a realistic (not just mathematical) chance to compete for an Ivy League title. The last time the schedule appeared this promising—with so many early home games for Columbia—Cornell was the prohibitive favorite to win the league.
I may tend to overemphasize the significance of a team’s schedule, but I believe it was a large factor in last year’s demise. The Lions had to be nearly perfect after getting swept early by Yale and Brown—two teams that Columbia later beat when they came to New York City.
Two years ago, the Light Blue found itself in a very similar situation. The Lions had beaten the Big Red on the road to begin Ivy play and faced a rematch at Levien. Unfortunately, Columbia stumbled to one of its worst first-half performances in recent years and narrowly lost, 63-66. The Lions went on to lose six of its next seven conference games.
But I am confident that the experience from 2012-13 season could pay dividends for the Lions this season. Consider that they nearly blew a 12-point lead in Ithaca last week, but then rallied to make up for foul-plagued junior guard Maodo Lo, who was held scoreless. Sophomore guard Kendall Jackson responded with a couple first-half treys in his place, and sophomore forward Jeff Coby offered arguably his best performance of the year. Clearly, opposing defenses will continue to focus on Lo, so coach Kyle Smith will need to lean on his role players.
Smith, then, will need to draw up another great game plan this weekend. The Lions forced Cornell to take poor shots—the Big Red did not make a two-point field goal until close to the end of the first half—yet, moving forward, the Lions will only face better shooters. Even this weekend, Cornell senior forward Shonn Miller will likely improve upon last weekend’s 3-for-13 performance.
More urgently, Columbia needs to work on handling pressure—both the intensity of late-game situations and press defenses. While the Lions never trailed at Cornell, if the game was 41 minutes long, that might have been a different story. I will go on record and state that the next time the Lions commit 23 turnovers, they will lose. Same goes for the next time they score 48 points.
Fortunately for the Light Blue, the next three weeks will bring the support of a hostile crowd in high-pressure situations. While it’s true (and staggering to note) that Columbia has only swept one of its last 33 two-game Ivy weekends, dating to 2009, the Lions are also 21-6 at home over the last two seasons.
So while Harvard and Yale have more talent, a fast or slow start can make all the difference in the 14-game tournament. And as all Columbia fans and students know (including President Barack Obama), home-court advantage can only help the Light Blue.
- Cornell Athletics Game Notes for this weekend are as follows:
Men's Basketball Eyes Split With Travel Partner Columbia On Saturday
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Game #18: Columbia at Cornell
Tip off: Saturday, Jan. 24, at 7:00 p.m.
Site: Levien Gymnasium (2,700), New York, N.Y.
2014-15 Records: Columbia (9-6, 1-0 Ivy); Cornell (8-9, 0-1 Ivy)
Series Record: Columbia leads 125-98
Last Meeting: Columbia won 48-45, Jan. 17, 2015in Ithaca, N.Y.
Radio: 98.7 FM The Buzzer (Barry Leonard)
HEAD COACH BILL COURTNEY
Cornell head coach Bill Courtney is in his fifth season at Cornell (45-87, .341; 19-38 Ivy, .333) ... Courtney became the fifth Robert E. Gallagher '44 Coach of Men's Basketball at Cornell on April 23, 2010.
The Cornell basketball team will look for the season split against Columbia when the squads complete their home-and-home series on Saturday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at Levien Gymnasium. Barry Leonard will provide coverage on 98.7 FM The Buzzer, with live video will be 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 8-9 a year removed from a 2-26 campaign and has septupled its win total from a year ago against Division I teams. The Big Red has the looks of a team on the rebound, playing suffocating defense (.382 field goal percentage defense, .322 3-point percentage defense, 61.4 ppg. allowed, 4.6 blocked shots per game) in its 17 contests. The Big Red has limited foes to below 40 percent shooting in 11 of its 17 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 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 (16.6 ppg.) and rebounding (8.0 rpg.). Miller also ranks in the top10 in the conference in free-throw percentage (third, .864), blocks (fourth, 1.9 bpg.) and steals (eighth, 1.3 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 (8.6 ppg., 3.9 rpg., 3.4 apg., 1.0 spg.) after a year away from basketball, the move of senior Devin Cherry to point guard (10.1 ppg., 4.8 rpg., 3.9 apg., 1.0 spg.) and the maturation of sophomores Robert Hatter (12.7 ppg., 2.5 rpg., 1.5 spg.) and David Onuorah (2.3 ppg., 3.9 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 (3.8 ppg., 18 3-pointers, .391 3-point percentage), and Darryl Smith (3.1 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 4.5 ppg. and 5.2 rpg. and have provided leadership on and off the court.
A WIN OVER COLUMBIA WOULD:
• even the Big Red's record both overall (9-9) and in Ivy League play (1-1).
• give Cornell a 3-1 record in its last four games.
• cut Columbia's edge in the all-time series to 125-99.
• be the 1,220th in program history (1,219-1,361 in 116 seasons, .472).
• Columbia enters the weekend with a 9-6 record after topping the Big Red 48-45 last Saturday in Ithaca.
• Columbia was chosen third in the Ivy League's preseason media poll.
• Ivy League Player of the Year candidate Maodo Lo enters the weekend among the conference's scoring leaders at 16.1 ppg. He is also averaging 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3-point range and 74 percent from the line.
• Though Lo is Columbia's lone double figure scorer, seven other players are averaging between 3.7 and 9.8 points per game in a balanced offense.
• The Lions are surrendering just 58.5 points per game and outrebound opponents by three per game (34.5-31.1).
• 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 71-63 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 124-99.
• Cornell has won 16 of the last 25 meetings between the squads, but in the short term, Columbia has now won seven of the last nine contests.
• The Lions swept last season's home-and-home series, including a 74-58 victory in Ithaca, and topped the Big Red 48-45 in their first meeting this season last Saturday at Newman Arena.
LAST TIME VS. COLUMBIA:
• Cornell had two shots in the final seconds to tie or take the lead, but Columbia was able to hold on for a 48-45 victory in the Ivy League opener on Jan 17 at Newman Arena.
• The Big Red got 17 points, three rebounds, three steals, two assists and a tremendous defensive effort from sophomore Robert Hatter, but the Lions held the home team to 25 percent shooting on the day overall and 24 percent from beyond the arc to sneak home with the victory.
• Hatter held Maodo Lo, the Ivy League's leading scorer, scoreless for the first time in 53 games.
• In all, Cornell forced 24 Columbia turnovers, including two keys ones in the final 30 seconds that allowed the Big Red to complete a rally from down 12 in the second half to a one-point game.
• Shonn Miller, who entered the contest tied with Lo as the conference's top scorer, was held to eight points with four rebounds and four steals.
• Devin Cherry notched nine points, seven rebounds and six assists.
• The Big Red had nine steals that helped the team score 21 points off turnovers.
• Kyle Castlin led Columbia with 12 points and both Jeff Coby and Steve Frankoski had 10 apiece.
• Isaac Cohen notched a game-high 10 rebounds and Coby added nine as the Lions held a 36-29 edge on the backboards.
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.
• 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 .382 shooting over its first 17 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 17 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 61.4 (62) .382 (26) .322 (110) 6.5 (162) 4.7 (66)
NOTES TO KNOW:
• Cornell has already won six more games than the entire 2013-14 campaign when it went 2-26. Only 21 teams in the country have won more games this season than last year (as of Jan. 19), topped by Cornell's +6. Lamar, TCU and UC Davis have all won five more games than they did a season ago to tie for second.
• Over the team's last eight games, Cornell is shooting an outstanding .814 from the free-throw line (144-of-177).
• Over its last two games, Cornell has forced an average of 26.5 turnovers while posting 12.5 steals per contest. It has outscored opponents off turnovers 67-9 in those two games.
• In its last three contests, the Big Red has 52 assists and just 28 turnovers.
• Cornell's 78-point margin of victory against Alfred State (107-29) was the largest in school history, bettering a 71-point win over Rome Air Foce Base in 1943.
• The team's 107 points against Alfred State made for the seventh-highest total in school history and the most in 22 years.
• Cornell allowed just 29 points against the Pioneers, the fewest surrendered in a contest since Sampson Naval Hospital scored 29 in a 68-29 Big Red victory on Dec. 1, 1945.
• 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.
• 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.
• Senior Shonn Miller leads the Ivy League in scoring (16.6 ppg.) and rebounding (8.3 rpg.). He is attempting 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 132 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.
• 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 18 games (11-7), Tarwater is averaging 3.7 points and 2.9 rebounds while playing 16.6 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.
• Cornell returns home for its first full Ivy League weekend when the Big Red hosts Brown (Friday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.) and Yale (Saturday, Jan. 31 at 6 p.m.) at Newman Arena.