The men’s Cornell basketball team looks to lock up the Ivy League title and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament this weekend at Brown and Yale. Cornell needs to win one of the two road games in order to clinch the title outright. Though Brown (11-18, 5-7 Ivy) and Yale (11-18, 5-7 Ivy) don’t appear to be challenging competition on paper, both have the potential to topple the Red.
“Yale and Brown are definitely tough teams,” said senior guard Louis Dale. “Brown especially was a challenge when we played them at home, and we’re going to have to play our ‘A’ game if we want to beat them.”
Cornell has historically had a tough time winning in New Haven, Conn. Last season, after dominating the Bull Dogs in Newman Arena, 64-36, the Red dropped its game at Lee Amphitheater, 72-60. This season has played out similarly, with the Red holding home court advantage with a 90-71 win over Yale early in the season.
“The crowd at Yale is pretty tough. They heckle and call you out,” Dale said. “Playing on the road is always tough, Yale is probably especially tough.”
Matt Mullery and Brown presented one of Cornell’s toughest challenges this season. In its last matchup, Cornell came out on top in a deceptively large, 74-60, victory. Brown was able to hold the lead for much of the game, falling apart with just minutes to go in the second half after a five man switch from Cornell’s bench.
Providence, R.I. will be first off in this weekend’s Ivy League road trip. Brown is coming off strong wins against Dartmouth and Princeton. Mullery and Peter Sullivan have been Brown’s biggest producers thus far this season, shooting for .559 and .426, respectively, from the floor. Cornell had a tough time keeping Mullery out of the paint in their last matchup, with Brown’s star player picking up 21 points, more than a third of the Bears’ total.
“We’re going to give both games our best shots,” said sophomore guard Chris Wroblewski. “They’re two really tough games, I know Brown played real close when [they played us at home] so it’ll be a really close, tough game.”
Senior forward Ryan Wittman, whose signature 3-point shots were noticeably absent in Cornell’s last matchup with Brown, will need to continue to hone his offensive arsenal from inside the paint and beyond the arc. The senior has been integral to the Red’s five-game winning streak, putting up 18.6 points per game. Wittman’s continued offensive prowess in addition to the resurgence of Dale has helped the Red pick up some tight wins. Holding off the Bears in Providence is expected to be more of an offensive showdown that defensive one.
Yale’s Lee Amphitheater, much like Newman Nation, has been the bane of many good teams. The Red has noted that it’s probably one of the toughest places to play in the Ivy League if not the entire country.
The team on the court, however, hasn’t shown much spark in its last few games, losing by an astounding 20 points to Jeremy Lin and the Crmson, and holding on to a 10 point victory against Dartmouth. Yale’s top offensive man, Adam Zampier, recently scored his 1,000th career point, but without support from the bench Zampier will likely not be enough to break through Coury and Foote. In its last meeting with the Bulldogs, the Red’s defense held Yale to only 48 field goal attempts, with the Red having 69. Yale also had trouble connecting from beyond the arc, netting only 18 percent of their 3-point shots.
“The atmosphere of the team is such that we’ve been thinking about the possibility of clinching at least part of the Ivy League title for a while and when it comes down to it we have to focus on the tasks at hand,” Wroblewski said.
With sole rights to the Ivy League title on the line, the Red will mostly be tested by its own nerves this weekend. A single win will lock up the title, and two wins will give Cornell the second most wins of any team in the Ivy League since it’s creation.