Game Preview: Lehigh at Cornell

Cornell will need Chemerinski to stay out of foul trouble if it hopes to hang with the red hot Mountain Hawks, led by CJ McCollum. (Photo credit: cornellbigred.com)

Cornell will try to shake off its first home loss of the season and enter the exam break on a positive note as the Big Red welcomes its second straight Patriot League opponent to Newman Arena on Saturday. The task doesn’t get any easier: Lehigh comes to town as hot as any team in the country. The Mountain Hawks are riding their best start in 31 seasons. Since dropping its first two contests against BCS competition, Lehigh has been perfect, winning six consecutive games by ten or more. Cornell will have its hands full with junior guard CJ McCollum who has been the elite player in the Patriot League since he arrived in Bethlehem a little over two years ago.

Last Head-to-Head: 11/22/10 – Lehigh 60, Cornell 57

It was one of those down-to-the-wire losses for Cornell. A big night for McCollum willed the Mountain Hawks over the Big Red. McCollum finished with 14 rebounds and 20 points, including two timely three-pointers in the final 1:03 of game action to put Lehigh on top for good. Cornell was led by its guards. Chris Wroblewski paced the squad with 14 points on four-of-nine shooting, and Drew Ferry added 10 points as well. At the time, the loss set Cornell back to 2-3.

Last Time Out

CORNELL

Cornell faced off with American last Sunday. The Eagles made canadian pharmacy cipro one big run in each half, starting off the game with a 13-2 advantage and engineering a 13-3 run midway through the second half. American led by as many as 11 with 5:06 left to play. But the Red wouldn’t go easily. Cornell ended the last five minutes of the game on a 22-13 run, but it would not be enough. Behind Wroblewski’s season-high 21 points, the Big Red fell 65-63.

LEHIGH

A close game against Fordham turned ugly quickly. Lehigh exploded in the final 10 minutes, turning what was just a four-point lead into an 18-point victory. After shooting just 28.2 percent from the field in the first half, Lehigh managed to go an even 50 percent from the floor in the second period. Big man, Gabe Knutson, led the way with 21 points, Holden Greiner added 18 points, and CJ McCollum chipped in with 15.

Keys to The Game

CORNELL

Keeping Eitan Out of Foul Trouble

Eitan Chemerinski might be Cornell’s most efficient offensive player. The sophomore is second on the team with 10.2 points per game and is leading the Big Red with a field goal percentage north of 64 percent. The only thing that has been holding Chemerinski back this season is his inability to stay on the floor. In six contests, Eitan has fouled out of one game, and been limited with four fouls in three other match-ups. The foul trouble goes a long way in explaining why Eitan has only been able to play more than 21 minutes in one game this season.

Keeping Eitan foul free may be more crucial Saturday night than in your typical game. Lehigh’s two biggest scoring options are a pair of juniors: McCollum and Knutson. Like most of the bigs he goes up against, Chemerinski gives up weight to Knutston. However, this time, the differential is not overwhelming, which might mean Chemerinski will be able to avoid being whistled when battling in the post.

McCollum loves to get in the paint and finish over bigs; however, he can be bothered by length while doing so. From his freshman to sophomore campaign, McCollum saw his field goal percentage drop significantly, a change that people close to the program attribute to his being more consistently challenged around the rim. Chemerinski can play this role. He will need to avoid drawing unnecessary foul calls so he can play with the physicality that challenging a guy like McCollum demands.

LEHIGH

Efficient Point Guard Play

Mackey McKnight and Anthony D’Orazio, both sophomores, will split time at point guard, with McKnight getting the nod as a starter and D’Orazio coming off the bench. Don’t look for these guys to be filling up the box score. Lehigh does not need them to; McCollum is the engine that moves Lehigh. Even so, it is extremely important that these point guards control this game. If there is one thing that the Lehigh guards have not done well this season, it has been taking care of the basketball. Over their first eight games, the Mountain Hawks guards have been turning the ball over at an alarming rate. McKnight and D’Orazio need to control the ball and limit these turnovers, especially against a Cornell team that loves to play in transition. McKnight and D’Orazio have to get the ball to Lehigh’s playmakers: McCollum and Gabe Knutson. The more efficiently they can do this, the better off Lehigh will be.

Players to Watch

CORNELL

Chris Wroblewski

The early offensive struggles of Chris Wroblewski have been documented by many, and rightly so. It took the senior, who shot 42.5 percent over his first three years in a Cornell uniform, a total of 112 minutes of court time to connect on his first two-point field goal. To put this in perspective, last season, after his first 112 minutes of action, Wroblewski was shooting 38 percent from the field. Compare that to the 17 percent he’s shooting in the time span this season, and you can sense the co-captain’s frustrations. Despite these struggles, Wroblewski has the rare ability to remain an asset on the court even when he’s not scoring. Ski leads Cornell with 5.8 assists per game and is second on the squad with 4.3 rebounds per contest.

Wroblewski coming out of his shooting funk was inevitable. He’s just too good of a player. Last time out, ’Ski shot seven-of-14 for a season high 21 points in 34 minutes of game action. After the game, Wroblewski told reporters, “I’m still trying to find that balance between keeping everyone involved and trying to find my own offense.” For the first time this season, Wroblewski achieved that balance as he added a game-high six assists to his game-high scoring total. It’s wrong to say that Wroblewski’s offensive game isn’t progressing; it’s too late in his career for that. Wroblewski was simply in a shooting slump and that slump looks to be coming to an end. Look for ’Ski to continue to heat up and find his stroke, especially in a big time match-up with McCollum.

LEHIGH

CJ McCollum

The Big Red will have their hands full at the guard spot for the second straight contest. Against American, Cornell matched up with the Patriot League’s top scorer, Charles Hinkle, and held him to just 4-for-11 shooting. The task gets no easier Saturday night as CJ McCollum will lead the Mountain Hawks into Newman Arena for the first time under his leadership.

McCollum can flat out score the basketball. He is the nation’s leading returning scorer from last season (21.8 points per game) and currently ranks second in that category in the Patriot League, behind Hinkle. Off to a hot start, McCollum leads the Mountain Hawks in three statistical categories with 19.7 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.4 steals per game. Simply put, McCollum may be the best guard Cornell faces all season. He’s a pure shooter who is capable of getting hot at any time and a guy who can put the ball on the deck and make things happen in the lane.

Defensively, if playing man-to-man, look for Miles Asafo-Adjei and Wroblewski to split time on McCollum. Both are big time match-ups to look out for.

Prediction

Too much Lehigh for too long. The Mountain Hawks go on a big second-half run en route to a victory over Cornell, their seventh consecutive double-digit win. Wroblewski continues to break out of his slump with another big-time shooting performance.

1 thought on “Game Preview: Lehigh at Cornell

  1. Jake Mastbaum is quite the accomplished sports writer. His observations and jaunty commentary provide an unusually lucid and insightful preview of the game.

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