Friday, February 6, 2015

News and Notes: Friday Edition

Below, news and notes (photo Cornell Daily Sun)...

Ten Questions With Shonn Miller: 
BasketballAssistant Sports Editor and Ten Questions Columnist Anna Fasman ’16 caught up with senior forward Shonn Miller to talk about everything from his Snapchat habits to his favorite spots to hang on campus.

1)   How did you get your start in basketball?
Just being around it since I was young. Playing in little leagues, like the YMCA league and spending time around people who played.
2)   What is your favorite place on campus?
The locker room. I spend most of my time there — in between classes, before practice, after practice. I’m usually there when I’m not in class or at home.
3)   What is your funniest moment with the basketball team?
One of the seniors when I was a freshman drove his truck up to Mann Library on the Ag. quad. He was dropping someone off at class at Warren Hall.
4)   Do you have any hidden hobbies or talents?
My teammates tell me that I have abnormally large hamstrings. It’s not a talent but …
It probably helps with basketball though
Yeah, they’re just really large.
5)   Do you have any pre-game traditions or rituals, either alone or with the team?
There are two songs that I listen to before each game: “Seen It All” by Young Jeezy and Jay Z and “House Party Remix.”
6) What is the best class you have taken at Cornell?
Either Green World, Blue Planet, which I just took over winter, or Human Resources Management with Beth Livingston. She was a really cool teacher.
7) What do you think is the most important thing that basketball has taught you?
Being part of a team and coming together with other people you don’t really know. Having a common goal and achieving and working hard … towards that goal.
8) If you could star in a remake of any basketball movie, which movie would you want to star in?
Juwanna Mann because I think I could dominate in the WNBA. Or Cookout because they had a lot of good food.
9) I’ve heard you really like Olaf from the movie Frozen. Can you tell me more about that?
It really came out of nowhere. I just saw Frozen for the first time like a month and a half ago.
You’re a little behind the times.
Yeah, a little bit. Anyways, I liked Olaf and one day I was asleep in the living room and I woke up and [my friends] had bought me a blanket and a stuffed Olaf. He made an appearance on Campus Story [on Snapchat]. Now he just sits there smiling at me on the corner of my bed in my room.
10) Tell me about your love for Snapchat.
I am the self proclaimed Snapchat prince.
Are you frequently caught taking snaps?
I’m always seen taking pictures. They are all selfies.
Do you send out mass snaps?
It depends. If I’ve put a lot of effort into it, then I’ll want a lot of people to see it.
Do you use the drawing tool?
Yeah, I’m an artist. I’m a Snapchat artist prince.

In sports, when the pendulum swings to its limit in either direction, there is a very good chance that the extreme swing is due to some convergence of unforeseen circumstances or events. A “perfect storm,” if you will.

When the Cornell men’s basketball team walked off the floor after last season’s finale, everyone involved—players, coaches and fans—were happy to move on. The team’s nightmarish season saw them win but one Ivy League game and one non-conference contest  to finish 2-26. All-Ivy player Shonn Miller was injured and missed the entire year, and standout Galal Cancer also sat out the season. The team was forced to rely heavily on inexperienced underclassmen, and the young players were often overmatched.  

Some observers called for head coach Bill Courtney’s job, but he is back and I still love his attitude. When the Ivy coaches convened before the season and picked the Big Red to finish last, Courtney said, “If we’re the eighth best team in this league, this league must be as good as any league in the country.”
Courtney’s players have refused to be drawn into the pessimism as well. After splitting last weekend’s road games against Brown and Yale, the Big Red are 10-10 overall and 2-2 in the conference. After beating Brown 57-49 Friday night, a win at 3-0 Yale would have tied the Big Red for the league lead. In a tough, 67-65 loss to the Bulldogs, Miller put up 15 points and grabbed 11 boards, Devin Cherry scored 14, and Cancer added 12 points.
Despite the fact that last year’s leading scorer, Nolan Cressler, transferred to Vanderbilt, the Big Red looked poised to take a big step in the right direction. Harvard is loaded once again and is picked to win the conference, but this year’s version of the Big Red is worthy of a look. With a lot of pride and a fresh start, Cornell will fight to stay in contention. Newman Arena will come alive on Friday and Saturday when Penn and Princeton come to town. Tip-off on Friday against Penn will be at 8 p.m., and Saturday’s game against Princeton tips at 6 p.m.
•     •     •
Cornell basketball fans will recall that it was the convergence of another unforeseen set of circumstances that helped the pendulum swing so far to the positive side a few years ago. Steve Donahue had worked hard for years to bring in the right group of players, and he had landed some first-rate players like Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale. Imagine Donahue’s surprise when a 7-footer walked in and said, “I’m Jeff Foote, I am leaving St. Bonaventure after one year, and I’d like to discuss playing for Cornell.” Foote, of course, became a dominant big man, and was by all accounts the missing piece of the puzzle. Foote developed physically, mentally and emotionally, and his inspiring rise from bench warmer at St. Bonaventure to playing center for Cornell in the Sweet 16 is one of the best stories in recent memory.
  • Peachtree Hoops is not impressed with Sam Dekker's athleticism on display against Cornell his freshman season during 2012.
  • Rush the Court's Harvard alum, Mike James has Cornell 5th in his power poll and notes, "Cornell (10-10, 2-2) – Big Red opponents have posted the following points per possession outputs over the first four games of Ivy play: 0.76, 0.87, 0.78 and 0.97. To put those numbers in perspective, Cornell has handed Columbia its two worst offensive efficiency showings of the season, Brown its second-worst and Yale its fourth-worst. The Big Red’s own offense has been similarly and alarmingly bad, however. Cornell joins Dartmouth and Penn in a fight for the least efficient offense in league play – with all three hovering around 0.87 to 0.88 points per possession. While the Big Green and Quakers are hanging around the offensive basement due to the usual suspect – an elevated turnover rate – the Big Red actually leads the league in avoiding turnovers. That could be a sign of better things to come for Cornell, though. It is a distant last in shooting percentage, which is something that should naturally start to rise, and when it does, paired with a strong Big Red defense, Cornell could push its way into the league’s upper division."
  • Heading into the Ivy weekend, Big Apple Buckets has Cornell 4th in its power poll and writes, "Cornell (2-2) — Despite its high-pressure style, Cornell’s defense actually forced very few turnovers in non-conference play. But that has turned around in recent weeks: The Big Red has gotten takeaways in more than a quarter of opponents’ possessions (including 16 from Yale on Saturday), and more than half of those have been live-ball steals. With a struggling halfcourt offense, Cornell needs all the fast-break help it can get."
  • The Crimson previews the Ivy weekend and writes in part:
In what passes for bulletin board material in the Ivy League, Daily Pennsylvanian columnist Steven Tydings noted that this weekend “the Red and Blue have the chance to rebound against two decidedly less talented squads in Cornell and Columbia.” Oof. But let’s remember that the Quakers are being outscored by nearly five points a game this season. They have won consecutive games just twice this year and failed to put up any semblance of a fight Saturday night against Harvard. By contrast, Cornell led Yale midway through the second half and just made tofu out of mealworms. Don’t sleep on these guys.  Pick: Cornell
With 13 minutes to go last week, Cornell led Yale 37-35 at home. With a win, the Big Red would have forced a three-way tie atop the Ivy League and stood a fair chance this week to surge into first place with a sweep. Of course, Yale dominated the rest of the way, as Armani Cotton finished with 13 rebounds in 28 minutes and the Elis crushed everyone not named Shonn Miller on the glass by a 46-20 margin.
In fact, Miller made just one of his six treys, putting him at 3-for-23 shooting on the year in conference play. After shooting 30 percent in nonconference play, I anticipate Miller having a nice reunion with the Law of Averages against Princeton’s feather-soft defense.
Pick: Cornell
PRINCETON, N.J. -- Ivy League men's basketball embarks the frenzy of February with a weekend of critical contests, starting with a Friday night under the national television broadcast lights with Dartmouth at Yale on CBS Sports Network and Penn at Cornell on American Sports Network.
The Dartmouth-Yale game opens a six-game slate of conference clashes on CBS Sports Network that includes five men's games and one women's game. Friday's matchup tips off 7 p.m. from John J. Lee Amphitheater in New Haven, Conn. with Sean Grande and Vince Curran on the call.
Up in Ithaca, N.Y., Penn and Cornell square off at 8 p.m. on American Sports Network with Carl Reuter and Rich Zvosec calling the action from Newman Arena. The Penn-Cornell game will also be available live on The Ivy League Digital Network (ILDN).
In other games on Friday, Princeton at Columbia is 7 p.m. on ESPN3 and ILDN and Harvard at Brown is 7 p.m. on ILDN. Saturday will be a #QuadView night with #ILDN carrying all four games.

Penn (6-11, 1-2 Ivy) at Cornell (10-10, 2-2 Ivy)

Date: Friday, February 6 – 8 p.m.
Location: Newman Arena • Ithaca, N.Y.
Live Broadcast: American Sports Network / The Ivy League Digital Network
Penn-Cornell Series
: Penn leads, 148-74
Last Meeting: Penn 69, Cornell 65 • 3/8/14 • Ithaca, N.Y.
Live Stats | Penn Game Notes | Cornell Game Notes

Princeton at Cornell
: Saturday, February 7 – 6 p.m.
Location: Newman Arena • Ithaca, N.Y.
Live Broadcast: The Ivy League Digital Network
Princeton-Cornell Series: Princeton leads, 141-79
Last Meeting: Princeton 91, Cornell 51 • 3/7/14 • Ithaca, N.Y.
Live Stats | Princeton Game Notes | Cornell Game Note
The Cornell men's basketball team wraps up its long stretch of games at or close to home this weekend when it welcomes traditional Ivy League powers Pennsylvania and Princeton to Newman Arena.
The much-improved Big Red (10-10 overall, 2-2 Ivy League) take on the Quakers (6-11, 1-2) at 8 p.m. Friday before welcoming the Tigers (9-10, 2-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday. Princeton is at Columbia on Friday night.
The Big Red women's team has a huge league road trip on tap, traveling to the historic Palestra in Philadelphia on Friday to face Penn, then heading to New Jersey on Saturday for a date with the nation's No. 18 squad, Princeton. At 19-0 (3-0 Ivies), the Tigers are one of just two remaining unbeatens in women's college basketball, along with top-ranked South Carolina (21-0).
The Cornell men haven't left New York state for a game since Dec. 21, a stretch of 10 games, when they lost 74-61 at Radford (Va.). The Red has played five of its last six at Newman, the only trip being on Jan. 24, when it scored a 10-point win over Ivy travel partner Columbia.
Coach Bill Courtney's squad is 3-3 in its last six home games and will look to defend its house this weekend against a pair of teams that have combined to win or share the league championship 51 times since the Ivies were formalized in 1957.
The Red is coming off a home split with Brown (57-49 win) and first-place Yale (65-57 loss). In the win over the Bears, Cornell registered 11 blocked shots, with seven of them by 6-9 David Onuorah, a career best for the sophomore. His presence in the paint helped limit Brown to 30 percent shooting as Cornell doubled its league win total from a season ago.
In the loss the next night, it was Cornell's turn to struggle from the field as it hit just 33 percent of its shots (20-for-60) and 19 percent from 3-point range (4-for-21). Yale scoring leader Justin Sears scored 19 points against the Red, after torching Columbia for 28 the night before, and earned Ivy Player of the Week honors.
Despite a rough shooting night against Yale, Cornell senior forward Shonn Miller still leads the league in scoring at 16.2 points per game, just ahead of Columbia guard Maodo Lo (15.9 ppg.) and Harvard forward Wesley Saunders (15.3 ppg.). Miller had 19 points last Friday against Brown and 15 against Yale on 6-for-20 shooting from the floor.
Miller also leads the league in rebounding (8.0 rpg.) and in free-throw percentage (86.3 pct.).
Other leaders for the Big Red include sophomore guard Robert Hatter (11.5 ppg.), senior point guard Devin Cherry (10.3 ppg., 3.8 assists) and senior guard Galal Cancer (9.3 ppg., 3.2 apg.).
Penn, which is coming off a home split that included a 63-38 loss to preseason favorite Harvard, is led by junior guard Tony Hicks (13.4 ppg.), the team's lone double-figure scorer. Hicks seems to like playing against the Red — as a freshman, he had 29 points in a 79-71 Quaker victory at Newman, and last year at the Palestra he had 27 as Penn won, 90-83.
Princeton, 0-6 on the road entering Friday night's game at Columbia, is led by a trio of double-figure scorers — Spencer Weisz (12.6 ppg.), Hans Brase (11.5 ppg., 7.2 rpg.) and Steven Cook (10.6 ppg.). The Tigers were 6-2 over their last eight before Friday, including last weekend's home split with Harvard (75-72 loss) and Dartmouth (64-53 win).
After this weekend, Cornell hits the road for its next four games, beginning next week at Dartmouth and Harvard.
It's been awhile since Penn basketball played a game away from the Palestra. But after putting together a stretch of the team's most respectable games this season, the Quakers are looking to continue to piece wins together in the Empire State.
Following a split in their first Ivy doubleheader of the season, the Red and Blue will get back to work when they take on their New York rivals this weekend, facing Cornell in Ithaca on Friday night before doing battle with Columbia on Saturday.
Despite grabbing their second consecutive win and notching their first Ivy victory of 2014-15 in a win against Dartmouth last week, the Quakers (6-11, 1-2 Ivy) were brought back down to Earth the following evening. Overwhelmed by a superior Harvard squad, Penn never led, knocking down only 13 shots en route to a 63-38 loss.
But to only focus on the Red and Blue's drubbing at the hands of the Crimson would sell Penn's recent five-game homestand short. Following a win on the road against Niagara, the Quakers' return to the Palestra featured a near-upset of then-No. 5 Villanova and two stout defensive performances against Saint Joseph's and Dartmouth (9-10, 1-3).
And at this point in the season, with an Ivy win under its belt and a series of winnable games ahead, coach Jerome Allen insists Penn has not lost focus, despite the ease with which Harvard handled the squad on Saturday.
"We're still in the present," Allen said. "We still have everything in front of us that we want to play for."
First up for the Red and Blue is Cornell, the only team that finished below the Quakers in the Ivy League standings last season. With the return of senior forward Shonn Miller from an injury that kept him out all of 2013-14, the Big Red (10-10, 2-2) have already bounced back significantly from last season's two-win campaign.
Cornell has won four of its last six, including a split of its own Ivy doubleheader last weekend. The Big Red followed up their win over Columbia on Jan. 24 with an eight-point win over Brown on Friday, before falling to Yale -- the only team still undefeated in Ivy play.
If the Quakers are to continue their three-game winning streak against Cornell, putting points on the board and converting open shots early will be key. Penn has averaged 18.3 points in the first half of its past three games, never scoring more than 20 points in any of the three.
"Both nights [last weekend], I thought we struggled to score the ball," Allen said. "But defensively the difference was that we were able to give ourselves an opportunity to win on Friday.
"I think there's a lot of parity in this league, and we need to prepare our guys to play 40 minutes at a time and appreciate an 80-minute weekend."...
Fresh off of a homestand against two strong opponents, the Princeton men’s basketball team travels through the state of New York to battle Ivy League foes. They will face the Columbia Lions on Friday, followed by the Cornell Big Red on Saturday. Both games will prove to be a big test for the Tigers, who have lost all six of their away games this season.

This weekend provides the Tigers (9-10, 2-1 Ivy League) not only the chance to close in on the leaders of the conference but also the opportunity to distance themselves from the rest of the league. The Lions and Big Red are the two teams directly behind Princeton in the league standings (Princeton at no. 3, Columbia and Cornell at no. 4 and 5, respectively).
***Balance is far less of an issue for the offense of Cornell. The Big Red (10-10, 2-2 Ivy League) is in the middle of a resurgent season, having already far eclipsed last year’s record of 2-26. The team has been led by the strong play of trio Shonn Miller, Robert Hatter, and Devin Cherry, who are scoring 16.2, 11.5, and 10.3 points per game respectively for their team. Miller in particular has been outstanding; after missing last season with a shoulder injury, the senior forward is controlling the game on both ends of the floor, adding 8 rebounds, 1.3 steals and almost 2 blocks to his already impressive points total.
It will be intriguing to see how Princeton’s top three scorers of sophomore wing Spencer Weisz (12.9 points per game), junior forward/center Hans Brase (11.5) and sophomore forward Stephen Cook (10.6) matchup. While Weisz and Brase have been the more consistent, no defense can afford to overlook Cook’s combination of range and playmaking abilities. His skills were on full display last week in Princeton’s loss to Harvard, as he accumulated 21 points from behind the arc, from the line, and on strong drives.
While Ivy League play started only recently, it is nevertheless incredibly important for the Tigers to keep up their strong start. Last year’s third-place finish in the league was made bittersweet by the fact that Tigers had a shot of making the NCAA tournament had their start to Ivy League play been better. If the Tigers want to keep themselves in contention for the league title, getting victories on two winnable games certainly would not hurt.
PHILADELPHIA – The University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team split its first full Ivy League weekend, defeating Dartmouth on Friday but falling to defending champion Harvard on Saturday in a sluggish performance. The young, inexperienced Quakers make their first Ivy road trip this weekend, and it’s the daunting New York swing -- a late tipoff at Cornell Friday night, then the long ride to NYC to face Columbia on Saturday night.
GAME 18 – PENN (6-11, 1-2 Ivy League) at CORNELL (10-10, 2-2)
Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 * 8 p.m.
Ithaca, N.Y. (Newman Arena)
GAME 19 – PENN at COLUMBIA (10-8, 2-2)
Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015 * 7 p.m.
New York City (Levien Gym)
Friday’s Game Part of Ivy’s American Sports Network Package
Friday night’s game at Cornell is the first of the five Friday Ivy League games being televised live by the American Sports Network. Click here to check your local listings to see if a channel in your area is picking up the broadcast. (In Philadelphia, you can watch the game on The Comcast Network.)
The Cornell-Columbia Road Weekend
*Penn has made this New York swing 55 times, sweeping it 22 times; splitting it 23 times; and getting swept 10 times.
*Penn has split this weekend each of the last five years; four times, the loss has come to Harvard (the lone exception being the 2012-13 season).
The Cornell Series
*Penn has doubled up Cornell in the all-time series, with a 148-74 lead; Penn has played Cornell more than any other program in history except Princeton (231 meetings) and Columbia (225).
*Penn has won three in a row and five of the last six against the Big Red; that includes a sweep of last year’s games, 90-83 at The Palestra in Philadelphia and 69-65 here at Newman Arena.
*Tony Hicks is a player to watch tonight; he had a 27-point game in the first meeting last year. Freshman year, he scored 29 points at Newman Arena, the most points by a Penn freshman in a game since current coach Jerome Allen dropped 31 in 1992 -- also at Cornell!
The Columbia Series
*Penn has played Columbia 225 times all-time, more than any program except archrival Princeton (231 meetings); the Quakers lead the series over the Lions, 138-87.
*Penn has won five of the last seven matchups and split with Columbia last year, the Quakers winning 68-60 at The Palestra in Philadelphia and the Lions returning the favor 74-55 one month later here in New York City.
*Penn has won just once at Levien Gym over its last five trips; that win came during the 2011-12 season, by just two points (66-64).
The Youth Getting Experience
*Penn has had four different freshmen win the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Week honor already this season (Antonio Woods, Nov. 17 and Jan. 19; Mike Auger, Nov. 24; Darnell Foreman, Dec. 8; Sam Jones, Dec. 15); according to the Ivy League’s basketball media guide, no team has had four different players earn the award in the same season (dating back to 1984-85).
*Those four newcomers have played 1,351 of the team’s 3,425 minutes this season (39.4 percent); as high as that percentage is, it would likely be even higher if not for Auger’s injury, which caused him to miss six of the Quakers’ 17 games so far this season.
Closing In On 1,000
Junior guard Tony Hicks enters this weekend’s games needing 57 points to reach 1,000 for his career.
Quaker Notemeal of Note
*Penn is 5-3 this season when leading at the half.
*Penn is 5-2 when making more foul shots in a game than its opponent.
*Penn is 6-2 this season when shooting a better percentage from the field than its opponent.
*Penn has outrebounded 12 of its 17 opponents this season; in two of those other five games, the Quakers matched their opponent in the rebound column.
*Penn has had six different players lead the team in scoring in a game this season (juniors Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry; sophomore Matt Howard; freshmen Mike Auger, Sam Jones and Antonio Woods).
*Those six players, plus two others (senior Greg Louis and freshman Darnell Foreman), have had at least one double-figure scoring game this season.
*Penn is undefeated this season when Louis hits double figures in the scoring column (4-0).
*Louis nearly had a double-double in Penn’s wins over Saint Joseph’s (10 points, 9 rebounds) and Dartmouth (10, 8) before being held to four points and four boards last Saturday against Harvard.
*Howard scored in double figures in both games last weekend (career-high 18 points vs. Dartmouth, 11 vs. Harvard); he has hit double digits in three of the last four games; five of the last seven contests; and seven of the last 11.

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