Cornell will attempt to prove its season-opening victory at Alabama was not a fluke as the Red strives for back-to-back road victories against the University of Massachusetts tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Cornell (1-0, 0-0 Ivy) will rely on an experienced core of veterans tonight in what will be the first of four games in the Legends Classic. The Red will travel to Philadelphia next week to complete the final three games of the Legends Classic. Cornell will seek a second straight victory over a non-conference foe with a national reputation.
“It’s always important to get off to a good start,” said senior co-captain Alex Tyler. “On the road, it helps settle down the crowd, too. We have confidence in ourselves. There might be a little carryover [from Alabama], but this is a completely different game. I don’t think [the win at Alabama] will factor that much into it.”
Selected to finish ninth in the preseason Atlantic 10 poll, the Minutemen (0-1, 0-0 Atlantic 10) feature a young squad led by senior guard Ricky Harris, the conference’s leading returning scorer with an average of 18.2 points per contest. Harris, Massachusetts’ only senior in the starting lineup, posted a team-high 15 points in an 84-67 season opening loss at Central Florida last Friday.
“[Harris is] one of those guys whenever he’s open, he’ll shoot it or even if he’s guarded, he’ll take a hard shot, so we have to key in on him,” said senior guard Louis Dale. “They have lots of guys, who just kind of penetrate and shoot. They’re all pretty much the same on the perimeter, so we just have to make them take difficult shots.”
UMass is led by second-year head coach Derek Kellogg, who recruited one of the leading crops of freshmen talent. The prized prospect is unquestionably Top 50 recruit, Terrell Vinson. The freshman forward from Baltimore will join a strong cast of underclassmen in the starting lineup, which attempted a school record 38 3-point field goals, netting 12 of them, in its season debut.
“They press, especially in the half court,” Dale said. “They put pressure on the ball handler. We could potentially see a full court press, too, so in that sense they’re like Alabama. As far as their offense, they just try to drive and penetrate and drive and kick [the ball to the outside]. They don’t really do too much off of that. We just have to stop penetration and limit them to one shot.”
“That’s always a big part of the game, to make sure they don’t get second chances, but I think everybody will be involved,” Tyler said. “They send their guards to go crash the boards a lot, so it won’t just be me and [senior center Jeff] Foote. It will be all the guards boxing out their guards, who will be crashing the boards pretty hard, so it’s going to have to be a whole team effort and not just the big guys down there getting rebounds.”
A side note in tonight’s matchup between Cornell and UMass will be junior guard Max Groebe, who transferred last year after playing one season for the Minutemen. During his freshman season at his former school, Groebe averaged 2.1 points in 19 games for the 25-11 Minutemen squad that was the NIT runner-up.