Less than 72 hours after a tough loss at St. Bonaventure, the Big Red opens up at Newman Arena in search of its first win of the year. Friday night’s game raised more questions than it answered: Can Cornell shoot the three-ball with consistency? Who will play the 4 in Peck’s absence? Have Jake Matthews and Max Groebe gotten the short end of the stick with new freshmen arrivals in the backcourt? Will Chemerinski and Figini be able to hold their own in the post?
The Big Red hopes to begin to answer all of these questions and more as it takes the floor against Binghamton tonight.
Last Head-to-Head: December 18, 2010 – Vestal, NY
From the tip, this game looked like it would be all Cornell, and the Red would end its then five-game losing streak. Cornell jumped out to a 13-2 advantage and built its lead to as much as 16 in the first half before entering the locker room up 43-30. Everything was working. Second half, not so much. Shots stopped falling, and the Bearcats started controlling the pace, slowly chipping away at the Big Red lead. With 14 seconds left, Mahamoud Jabbi—a Division III transfer—hit the game-winning jumper to put the Bearcats on top for good and send Cornell back to Ithaca with another gut-wrenching loss.
Last Time Out
Three-point shooting kept the Red even with St. Bonaventure in the first half. In the first period, Cornell shot eight of 14 from behind the arc. They looked comfortable and confident. But that state of euphoria was short-lived, and the expression “live and die by the three” proved all too true. Cornell was ice cold out of the break. The 57 percent three-point shooting percentage that Cornell boasted in the first half dropped all the way to zero percent in the second. Couple that cold shooting with Andrew Nicholson’s dominance in the paint and reserve Matthew Wright’s hot hand and you’re left with a 79-58 St. Bonaventure victory.
Despite a game-high 27 points from freshman Ben Dickinson in his Bearcat debut as well as 24 points from sophomore guard Robert Mansell, Binghamton fell to Colgate 78-74 in its season opener on Saturday night. Trailing by as much as 18 early in the second half, the Bearcats slowly carved away at the Colgate lead. But a cold shooting night (33 percent from the floor) was too much to overcome late as the Raiders held on for the four-point victory.
Keys to The Game
Binghamton doesn’t have the interior presence that St. Bonaventure displayed in the first game, but the Bearcats did manage 18 offensive boards in their opener. As will be the case throughout the year, Cornell must limit offensive rebounds and touches in the paint. In Olean, the Red was outscored by 12 points in the post and gave up a decisive edge on the glass. While they were able to keep the game tight by knocking down eight first-half three-pointers, when the shooting percentage came back down to Earth the game got out of hand.
Keys: Make threes early and often, limit second chance buckets, and defend the post
If there’s one word that can sum up this Binghamton squad, it’s ‘inexperienced’. Coming off a 7-22 season, the Bearcats lost their two top scorers and four most productive players. Coach Macon and his squad are still trying to get things settled. Playing a Cornell team that likes to push the ball and speed up the pace may not be the most ideal matchup for Binghamton.
Key: Tempo, tempo, tempo. Slow Cornell down, and make this a half court game
Players to Watch
If you watched last Friday’s game against St. Bonaventure, one thing was clear: a few freshmen will see major minutes this season. One of those freshmen is Galal Cancer. The rookie showed a natural instinct for getting to the rim. The one problem: finishing. Cancer was zero for four from the field—all from close range—and finished with only two points in 16 minutes. Still, Cancer displayed an ability to break defenders down off the dribble that was reminiscent of Louis Dale. Perhaps Cancer just needs to get his feet wet to solve his finishing woes. First college game, in a big arena, in front of a large crown, against a really good St. Bonaventure team is bound to rattle some nerves. Each minute Cancer plays is going to be a small step forward in his development. Look for him to take a few of those steps tonight against Binghamton.
No question Wroblewski is the heart and soul of this Cornell team. He has that rare ability to contribute even when he struggles. For example, Friday night, despite going zero for two from the field, Wroblewski dished out eight assists. But for Cornell to be successful this season, Wroblewski is going to have to do better than just that. Expect a major bounce-back performance for the senior co-captain tonight. The friendly confines of Newman Arena should be just what Wroblewski needs. A season ago, Wroblewski averaged a shade over 16 points per game at home, almost six points per game better than his average on the road.
The freshman scored 27 points in his collegiate debut, and, at an athletic 6-9, he’s able to score in a variety of ways—off the dribble, off cuts, or simply spotting up from deep. His range is solid, and his mobility is impressive.
The sophomore guard poured in 24 points on Saturday night. Although he isn’t necessarily a threat from beyond the arc, Mansell thrives in the lane. He’s quick with dribble penetration and has the size (6-4) to finish in traffic. He knows how to use his body to get to the line where he converted 10 of 14 attempts in the opener.
Chris Wroblewski, Drew Ferry, Johnny Gray, Dwight Tarwater, Eitan Chemerinski
Jimmy Gray, Carlyle Francis, Robert Mansell, Ben Dickinson, Alex Ogundadegbe
With a sour taste still in its mouth from that inexplicable loss to Binghamton a year ago, Cornell comes out energized and quickly builds a double-digit lead. The Big Red never looks back and wins this one easily behind a balanced offensive attack led by Chris Wroblewski. And hey, guess what, Cornell even wins the rebounding battle.
Co-written by Jake Mastbaum and Sam Aleinikoff