Ivy basketball is back. Travel partners Cornell/Columbia and Penn/Princeton kicked off the first true Ivy League basketball weekend of the 2011-2012 season. The Big Red had its hands full as Princeton and Penn made the trek to Newman Arena. Cornell has been a dominant home team this season, but had to face the Ps with Newman Nation noticeably absent.
Princeton was expected to be a match-up nightmare for Cornell because of its size. The Tigers measure 6’0’’, 6’5’’, 6’7’’ in the backcourt compared to 6’0’’, 6’2’’, 6’2’’ for the Big Red. However, the Princeton team that beat Rutgers and Florida State was not in the building Friday night. Simply put, the Tigers looked unimpressive, as they struggled to control the tempo and Ian Hummer disappeared after the first half, leaving the scoring burden to Doug Davis. In the second half alone, Davis was forced to attempt 16 shots.
But even more surprising than Princeton’s rather uninspiring performance was the way Cornell got it done. 0 points from Drew Ferry. 2-11 from long range. 5 fouls in 11 minutes for Eitan Chemerinski. 53.3% from the free throw line in the final 3 minutes. These stats do not scream victory, but Cornell came away with a big one, outscoring Princeton in the paint 36-24 and for just the second time this season, out-rebounding its opponent. It may have been unconventional, but it worked.
Saturday night’s meeting with Penn appeared to be a much better matchup for Cornell. The Quakers are build very similar to the Red; strong backcourt, weak frontcourt. It appeared as though the team that executed better would walk away on top of the league at 2-0. What was abundantly clear in this one was that Zack Rosen was the best player on the floor. Even while Rosen staked his claim as the front-runner for Ivy League Player of the Year, Cornell had its chances. Cornell had the ball at the end of the first half, trailing by eight, with a chance to hold for the last shot. Freshman Devin Cherry subsequently turned the ball over, leaving 3 seconds for Penn. Just before the buzzer, Zack Rosen found Steve Rennard for a right side three, giving Penn an 11 point half-time lead. A devastating 5-6 point swing. Cornell was never able to respond to the blow, only able to come within single-digits once more, early in the second half.
Cornell had to come away from this weekend with at least one win and they did just that. In that respect, Cornell opened the Ivy slate on a positive note. As events transpired at Newman Arena this past weekend, we learned a few things about the Ivy League and, of course, about Cornell.
The parity top-to-bottom in this league is unlike anything we’ve seen in years past. Prior to Friday’s Cornell-Princeton matchup, the Ivy Hoops Online power-poll had Princeton ranked second and Cornell ranked sixth. Granted, an Ivy League power-poll before the start of the conference season doesn’t mean much, but it makes a statement when the sixth ranked team outplays the second ranked team from start to finish.
Point Guard Play
The point guard play in the league this year is unreal. This past weekend alone, we got to watch Chris Wroblewski, Doug Davis, and Zack Rosen. Not only are these guys talented, but they have some of the highest basketball IQs you will find in the college game. Next week, Cornell faces off with Columbia’s Brian Barbour, who has done an impressive job filling the offensive void left by Noruwa Agho. Ranking the top point guards in the league is just as tough as ranking the middle of the Ivy League.
Addressing the defensive emphasis on Drew Ferry
If there is one thing that became clear this past weekend, it is that teams have Drew Ferry’s number. After averaging 13.8 points over Cornell’s first 14 games, Ferry was held 63 minutes and 12 seconds without a point. This lack of scoring was not due to a poor shooting performance by Ferry, rather it was a result of the defensive intensity applied to the senior guard. Against Princeton, Doug Davis hounded Ferry all night. When Princeton was playing man defense, the Tigers would hedge aggressively on screens, not giving Ferry an inch of space. When Princeton switched to the 2-3 zone, Ferry was the only Cornell player that was followed through the zone. Unlike Princeton, Penn didn’t have only one guy key in on Ferry. The Quakers identified him early and threw everything it had at him. Don’t expect this to change. One unique thing about the
Ivy League is how teams become so familiar with one another. If opponents start to get a whiff at how to stop Ferry on film, you better believe the strategy will continue. No one is going to forget what Ferry is capable of.
- Develop new sets to get Ferry open looks. On film, Penn and Princeton clearly caught sight of how Cornell uses Ferry and drew up a way to stop it. It is up to the Cornell coaching staff to make the next move.
- Find a new primary scoring threat. This will take some of the defensive attention off of Ferry and should give him some of the open looks he is accustomed to. It seems as though Shonn Miller could be the guy, but his continued development is key.
In this league, you are only as good as your ability to adjust. Teams just know each other too well. Cornell’s 1-1 league start is a good one, but the Red making some noise this season will be contingent on its ability to adapt to not only its opponents, but also to their game plans.