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Cornell Looks Like Ivy Favorites

February 3, 2008 Columns No Comments




Cornell Looks Like the Favorite

by Phil Kasiecki

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The first Ivy League showdown of the season went to the preseason favorites. Cornell knocked off Brown on Friday night by a 75-64 margin, asserting themselves as the team to beat early on.

The Big Red moved to 3-0 in Ivy League play, with two wins coming on the road thus far. They also have a good cushion as Yale lost at home on Friday. More importantly, the Big Red looked the part of the champion, between winning on the road against the only other Ivy League team to have a winning record in non-league play, and answering every rally attempt by the Bears. They looked the part of the veteran team, while the Bears, whose offense never really got untracked, looked like an upstart.

That might have been evident to someone watching the game, but there was more to it than just what was apparent on the court. In their season opener, the Big Red had a teaching point, when they had to hold off a late charge by Lehigh for an 87-83 win. With about two minutes left, they led by 14 points, but they needed two late free throws to seal the game.

That led head coach Steve Donahue to make a slight change to practice in the hope that they would get better at putting an opponent away.

“We practice that situation – we’ll put three minutes on the clock, up ten, and we don’t want to lose that lead,” said Donahue. “We want to go up – go up to 15 or more.”

The Big Red got the idea on Friday night, although the Bears did make one comeback. After Cornell went up 28-17, Brown rallied to tie the game at halftime and looked to have momentum into the second half. But Cornell never trailed, scoring the first seven points of the second half.

Later in the second half, Cornell got its largest lead at 57-45. Brown rallied to get within six, but they got no closer and the Big Red pulled away. Cornell kept up the offense with a flurry of three-pointers, as they always had an answer when Brown tried to charge back. They were 9-18 from three-point land, with several of them being back-breakers.

The Big Red got going from three-point range later in the first half, after Brown stopped a lot of their dribble drives and interior passes. Brown was never able to turn the turnovers into points, and that gave the Big Red an opening to eventually take the lead, which they did.

“You can’t miss layups, jump shots and expect to beat a team that’s considered the best team in the league,” said Brown head coach Craig Robinson. He added, in summing up his tam’s place as the upstart, “We’re still trying to figure out how to win, when we’ve lost for so long.”

Cornell has continued to win despite losing a little depth in the backcourt. Collin Robinson, who transferred from USC, left the team for personal reasons before Ivy League play began. He remains enrolled in school, and his absence certainly takes something away from a numbers standpoint, as he was third on the team in scoring at 10.6 points per game and handed out 4.4 assists per game as well.

A key part of their growth has been the play of sophomore point guard Louis Dale. Last season, Dale played a lot of minutes at the point, and looked like a freshman as he made his share of bad decisions with the ball. This season, he’s more mature and is running the show like a seasoned veteran. There is likely still more to come from him as well.

“I think he can play even better,” said Donahue. “I think he turns the ball over on silly things, but he makes tremendous plays on both sides of the ball. The turnover part, I think that’s unforced, and I have to get on him for that.”

There’s still a long way to go, but Cornell’s win on Friday night, and how they won the game, says something about the pecking order in the Ivy League early on. Projected by most, including the league’s coaches, to win the Ivy League in the preseason, the Big Red appear to be looking the part right now.

     

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