Preview - Syracuse vs. Cornell

Coming off a sloppily played but defensively impressive 68-37 debut win over Bethune-Cookman, the Syracuse University Men's Basketball Team advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2K Coaches Versus Cancer Classic tournament, where they'll take on a familiar foe from upstate New York—the Cornell University Big Red.

Last season's annual matchup between these two schools resulted in both an 82-69 victory for the Orange, and a pyrrich victory for the visiting team, in which Cornell buried a Carrier Dome record fifteen three point shots against the Orange.  Sixth-year coach Steve Donahue returns a solid nucleus of players from a 13-14 squad that swept the Princeton Tigers in a pair of regular season conference contests en route to finishing 2nd overall in the Ivy League standings.

 

TV Coverage: ESPNU

Last Meeting: Syracuse 82 Cornell 69 – December 20, 2004

Series Record: SU 82 wins, 31 losses

 

 

Cornell advanced to the quarterfinals on the strength of an impressive 21 point victory over St. Francis [PA], a game in which the Big Red displayed tremendous offensive poise, solid outside shooting, and strong frontcourt play.  A link to the boxscore from the Cornell / St. Francis [PA] game [provided by CNN/SI.com] is listed below:

 

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/basketball/ncaa/men/boxscores/2005/11/08/36933_boxscore.html

 

The Big Red jumped on the Red Flash early in the game, establishing a first half 30-18 lead before St. Francis was able to close to within six, for a 32-26 halftime margin.  However, in the second half, the St. Francis players saw Red flashing before their eyes, as Cornell opened up a double digit lead that they never relinquished behind the deep shooting of wings Lenny Collins and David Lisle and the strong interior play from the tandem of Ryan Rourke and Jason Hartford.

 

Cornell plays a perimeter screening motion offense that will prove to be a formidable obstacle for the unproven Orange to overcome.  The disciplined attack that Cornell exhibited in the Coaches Versus Cancer opening game was markedly different than the parade of turnovers that characterized Syracuse's performance in the second game.  Although the Orange put forth an impressive defensive effort, the Syracuse players need to do a much better job taking care of the ball and executing offensive sets in the half-court offense for the team to realize it's potential.

 

The Big Red's likely starting five are listed below:

 

Cornell University Key Personnel:                 2004 – 2005 Statistics

Projected Starters:

 

PG – Graham Dow, JR, 6-0, 175

3.9 ppg, 2.4 apg, 36 steals

SG – David Lisle, SR, 6-4, 210

2.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg

G/F– Lenny Collins, SR, 6-6, 215

13.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 40.9% 3PT

F – Ryan Rourke, SR, 6-8, 225

8.6 ppg, 4.2 rbg

C  – Andrew Naeve, JR, 6-9, 220

3.6 ppg, 3.3 rbg, 28 blocked shots

 

Bench:

C  – Jason Hartford, FR, 6-9, 230

G – Adam Gore, FR, 6-0, 180

SG – Khaliq Gant, SO, 6-3, 175

F – Ugo Ihekweazu, JR, 6-5, 210

 

 

 

Cornell's best all-around player is Lenny Collins, an early season candidate for Ivy League player of the year.  The 6-6 senior from Rancho Santa Margarita, California is a strong perimeter shooter who can also put the ball on the floor and finish inside.  He hauled in 6 boards against St. Francis and connected on 1 of his 2 attempts from three point range.

 

Ryan Rourke gives the Big Red unaccustomed size / athleticism in the paint.  Against St. Francis, the junior college transfer from Bothell, Washington netted 25 points on 7-10 from the field, and 9-10 from the line—good for 25 total points.  He also hauled in 9 rebounds in a game MVP performance.  Rourke is most comfortable facing the basket [having connected on 2-3 from three point range], but his versatility, size, and skill around the basket will force the Syracuse defense to account for him wherever he is on the floor.

 

Experienced David Lisle steps into a starting role this season, and the cerebral Canadian brings versatility, size, and playmaking aptitude to the Cornell lineup.  What he does not bring is scoring punch—he missed all of his field goal / free throw attempts in the St. Francis game.  Lisle did contribute four assists in 30 minutes of action.

 

What Lisle lacked in offensive productivity was made up for by the impressive debut of Adam Gore, a 6-1 freshman from Monrovia, Indiana.  Gore, a third team all state selection in Indiana high school basketball action last season, connected for 11 points from the field.  Gore does not hesitate to put the ball up when the opportunity arises, which will force the Syracuse defenders to find him early and often on defense.

 

Big Andrew Naeve gives Cornell solid size on the interior [6-9, 200], but he is much more of a perimeter player than a low post threat.  However, much like Craig Forth last year, he knows his limitations and plays within them, making him an important cog in the Cornell Big Red attack.

 

The complimentary scoring to Ryan Rourke's impressive performance was provided by junior college transfer Jason Hartford.  Not only does the 6-9 Oregonian provide interior depth for the Big Red, he also is a potent offensive threat.  Against St. Francis, he registered 16 points on an eye-popping 7-12 shooting performance [including 1-2 from three point range].  Hartford also pulled down 11 caroms, registering a double-double in his Cornell debut.

 

Dow, Gant, and Ihekweazu provide depth for the Big Red, although none of these three logged more than seven minutes against St. Francis.  Gant did start 16 games for Cornell last season, and is a legitimate three point threat having connected on 42.4% of his trifecta attempts last season.

 

 

Outlook:

 

Although the Syracuse attack frequently stalled on Tuesday night, it is important to keep in mind that the 2005-2006 Orange featured several players who were stepping into more prominent roles.  Despite the subpar offensive play, there were several encouraging signs:

 

q       Demetris Nichols connected on his first 3 three point attempts, and put together a solid 11 point-6 rebound-5 assist performance.  Solid "debut" for a player stepping into a prominent role.

q       Watkins seemed to inhale everything that came off of the rim [9 rebounds], and blocked 4 shots on the defensive end

q       Trob hit a mid range jumper, en route to registering a team-leading 15 points

q       Arinze Onuaku lived up to the preseason hype, logging 16 impressive minutes in which he scored 4 points and hauled in 5 rebounds

q       Josh Wright had a so-so type of on the ball game.  Even so, he still netted a career high 10 points [8-10 from the charity stripe] in 17 minutes of play

q       Andy Rautins drilled a deep three

 

Clearly, the preseason section of the 2005-2006 schedule will feature a Syracuse Orangeman team that will continue to be a work-in-progress as players learn, develop, and ultimately round into form in the roles that will be required of them this season.  Yesterday's win over Bethune-Cookman provided Syracuse fans with many reasons to be excited about this year's team, but it also showed that the Orange have a long way to go before they adequately fill the shoes left vacant by the departed Hakim Warrick-Craig Forth-Josh Pace triumvirate.

 

Cornell's offensive poise and execution will keep this game close early, but look for the Orange to dispatch their rivals back to Ithaca with a decisively one-sided loss.

 

Prediction:

 

Syracuse 74

Cornell    60


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