PREVIEW: CORNELL VS. SYRACUSE

Cornell Big Red and Syracuse Orange renew long standing in-state series this Saturday.

GAME 11: Cornell (5-4 overall, 0-0 Ivy League) vs. Syracuse (7-3 overall, 0-0 ACC)

ALL-TIME SERIES: Syracuse, 89-31 (Last Season - Syracuse: W, 61-44)

DATE: Saturday, December 19th, 2015

GAME TIME: 12:00 PM EST

LOCATION: Carrier Dome

TV: Fox Sports South: feed will broadcast locally in Central NYS on the YES Network (Channel 53 or 321 on Time Warner Cable; Channel 76 on Verizon Fios; Channel 631 on Direct TV; other providers may vary based on package.)

ORANGE RECAP: Syracuse is coming off an 84-72 loss against long time Big East rival, St. John’s.  Often considered “the home away from the Dome,” Madison Square Garden was unkind to the Orange in this visit.  New Red Storm head coach, Basketball Hall of Famer and legendary alum Chris Mullin and his staff (which also includes HOFer Mitch Richmond) got their team ready to defeat the ‘Cuse; who also fell to St. John’s last year at the Dome 69-57.  Federico Mussini and Amar Alibegovic overwhelmed Syracuse, as the two Italian imports amassed 17 and 15 points respectively.  But, it was Alibegovic’s nine rebounds and 75% shooting from the three point line (3-4), including a deep three from the Madison Square Garden wordmark on the floor (roughly 5-7 feet beyond the NBA three point line) that put the dagger in the Orange.  The ‘Cuse was again plagued at the free-throw line (19-31, 61.3%), which is a historical trait, and they continued to be beaten on the boards losing the battle 50-36.  On a bright note, Malachi Richardson and Michael Gbinije showed a significant level of assertiveness on the offensive end with 15 and 21 points each.  Frank Howard and DaJuan Coleman continue to increase their minutes in the rotation, but 35.8% from the field as a team makes it very difficult to get it done against any opponent.

CORNELL: The Big Red comes into the Dome with a record of 5 wins and 4 losses (including one win over Division III Penn State-Harrisburg), after back to back victories over Siena (MAAC) and Lafayette (Patriot League).  Additional victories for Cornell include games against other in-state opponents, Colgate (Patriot League) and Binghamton (America East).  Although no games have been played in the Ivy League, Cornell is currently third in the standings behind Columbia and Princeton in terms of overall records.  The Big Red are coming off a two-week break for final exams, so despite a two game winning streak there may be some rust to shake off.  Robert Hatter (G, #5) and Matt Morgan (G, #10) are leading in points per game for Cornell with 19.6 and 14.4 each.  Both guards are featured in the starting line-up and are flanked by Darryl Smith (G, #1), Jordan Abdur Ra’oof (F, #12) and David Onuorah (C, #0).  Despite a winning record, the Big Red surrenders 74 points per game (Orange average 71.8), but do average 35.6 rebounds per game which nearly equals Syracuse at 35.9.  The ‘Cuse obviously appears to be the superior team, but Cornell is that type of opponent to not be underestimated.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:

1.      The Orange needs more scoring help.  Malachi Richardson will have to continue his offensive output, as Syracuse requires an additional “go to player” besides Michael Gbinije.  There is a heavy load on Gbinije right now to carry the team, and extra help has to be on the way as soon as possible.  A softer December schedule should give players like Tyler Lydon, Frank Howard, and even Kaleb Joseph an opportunity to step up in the scoring column.  Lydon, although a freshman, needs to start looking like the young Larry Bird that he was at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

2.      Rebounding.  This word is its own sentence, because the disparity on the boards has been part of the formula to defeat the Orange.  Tyler Roberson and DaJaun Coleman have to make a pact between each other that they will not get out rebounded by anyone.  If they control the glass and get used to this mantra during the remainder of non-conference play, it could become the recipe for success against more physical and talented ACC opponents.

3.      Managing minutes and establishing their rotation continues to be a process for interim Head Coach Mike Hopkins.  It will be interesting to see how things play out with the return Jim Boeheim on January 9th against North Carolina.  The critical player to manage is Trevor Cooney (38.2 minutes per game, leading all players), because if the Orange want to make any deep post season run whether it be NCAA or NIT they will need a healthy three-point marksman when the ACC Tournament approaches.  The more confidence gained by increased minutes for Howard, Joseph and Coleman could pay off down the road as well for a program that historically is never very deep.

4.      The same issues seem to plague the Orange game in and game out.  Scoring, rebounding, minutes played and of course free-throws.  Some members of the ‘Cuse Nation fan base may not be happy with a 7-3 early record, although in many ways this team as overachieved early.  But, let’s not forget despite the recent abrupt retirement by Bo Ryan (which was slated at season’s end), Wisconsin is still a tough out and the Big East even after the mass exodus of teams is still a formidable conference; so losses to Georgetown and St. John’s should not be unexpected.  This team will be up and down all year, but if they can reach 20 wins, they will certainly test the committee leading up Selection Sunday.  Joe Lunardi, ESPN Bracketologist, currently has Syracuse as a #6 seed in the Mid-West Region with their first game in Providence, R.I. against #11 San Diego State. 


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