Cornell Finds Its Defensive Identity in Illinois

Stifling defense and opportunistic shooting almost led Cornell to a victory over Illinois. Can the Big Red repeat that formula to find success against their Ivy foes? (Photo Credit: baynews9.com)

There isn’t a player in the Ivy League that can break down a defense like Brandon Paul and simultaneously shoot over any guard at 6″ 4″. There also isn’t a player that can shoot the three-pointer from thirty feet and possesses the ability to go by you with a lightening quick first step like D.J. Richardson.  There definitely isn’t a player in the Ivy League like Meyers Leonard who is over seven-feet tall and also has range that extends near the three-point line and a solid back-to-the-basket game befitting a potential NBA lottery pick.

It’s no surprise that Cornell was outrebounded by 17 – Illinois had the size advantage in every match-up on the floor. It’s not shocking that the Red was held to under 40% shooting from the field – the quickness and length that the Illini possess is bound to cause shooting woes. But it’s also no miracle that Cornell led most of the game and could have come away from Champaign with a victory.

Hounded by a relentless 2-3 zone for most of the night, the usually sure-handed Illini committed 15 turnovers while the opportunistic Red turned the takeaways into 19 points. Illinois looked flustered, frantic and frustrated for much of the night by the undersized East Hill squad. Constant double teams in the post and a collapsing zone didn’t do much to stop Leonard from converting when he got the ball – he was 9 for 11 from the field – but the seven-footer was forced to play much of the game at the high post where smaller Cornell defenders had a chance to force the sophomore big man into bad decisions.

Hands were constantly in passing lanes. Traps forced errant passes. For much of the first half the

Red put on a defensive clinic: passing off cutters through the zone, sliding laterally to cut off holes and Har presenteras bocker, filmer och musik online casino med I Live casinoet kan du teste ut mange spennende bordspill som horer hjemme pa et – og det beste av alt er selvsagt at du kan spille i sanntid!LeoVegas fokuserer pa a gi spillerne sine en folelse av a v?re i et ekte casino og det er derfor ikke overraskende over at sa mange spillere allerede elsker dette casinoet. . stepping up to contest shots from the back line.

In the loss, the Red did not discover a formula for taking down Illinois like some might say in Big Ten country. Instead, Cornell discovered a formula for winning games themselves. Defense. Gritty, scrappy, hard-nosed defense. It’s no e = mc2 or Pythagorean Theorem. It’s nothing new or innovative. But if Cornell can consistently defend like they did in Champaign they can beat anyone left on their schedule. Yes, even the mighty Crimson.

Obviously, the Red did more than defend. They got hot early, silenced the crown often with timely buckets and occasionally got production inside. The most impressive statistic of the evening may have been Cornell playing Illinois even in the lane – with each team producing 18 points in the paint.  On the offensive boards, the Red lost the battle 13-9 but still managed to produce 12 second chance points to Illinois’ five.

Solid, consistent defense. Opportunistic, patient offense. For the first 36 minutes that was the script and Cornell followed it to the T. In the final four minutes though, shots became rushed, put backs didn’t fall and the

stifling zone quickly dissolved into sloppy man.

The good news for the Red is that 36 minutes of the basketball it played on Monday should be enough to beat just about any team left on its schedule. Playing “the right” 36 minutes – including strong play down the stretch – or a full 40 would no doubt be helpful, but the teams left on the Red’s schedule likely cannot orchestrate a final four minutes like the stretch that Illinois put together.

As much of a weapon as Greg Mangano can be, he’s no Meyers Leonard. As solid as Keith Wright is, he doesn’t provide the versatility and toughness of Tyler Griffey.  As much electricity as Brandyn Curry sparks, he doesn’t have the size and mid-range game of Brandon Paul. Illinois is very clearly a good Big Ten team and even in an up year for the Ancient Eight, the group from Champaign is a step above league competition.

The formula has been set. They say offense wins games and defense wins championships. A championship may be too much to expect this year, but the defense that Cornell played on Monday should at least put them in the conversation.

1 thought on “Cornell Finds Its Defensive Identity in Illinois

  1. A scintilating combination of intellect and “down home” sports savvy are hallmarks of Aleinikoffs’ commentary. A tribute to the men of Ithaca…go Big Red!

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