Princeton starts the back 13 games of their Ivy slate Friday night at Jadwin Gym and princetonbasketball.com is here to prep you for the Tigers' first full weekend of conference play. As part of our Know! Your! Foe! series please welcome Ithaca's own Brian Delaney back to the site.
Our lengthy email exchange about Cornell can be found after the jump.
A Columbia Lions preview will follow tomorrow.
If you cover a team the Tigers will face down the line, let us know. It would be great to talk with you.
Thanks for joining us again this year, Brian. Cornell is 1-1 in the Ivy League, losing to Columbia at home and then winning on the Lions' floor. What went wrong in the first game and right in the second for the Big Red?
Hey Jon! Great being back, and thanks again for having me. Hope Tigers fans are enjoying the season. In Ithaca, Columbia dissected Cornell and shot 53.5% (61.1% in the second half) and got balanced scoring inside (Mark Cisco, 18 points) and outside (Brian Barbour, Steve Frankoski and Grant Mullins combined for 39 points). The Lions slowed the pace and scored just over 1.2 points per possession. Cornell did a much better job defending the Lions’ perimeter guys last weekend in NYC. The aforementioned trio was limited to 24 points on 8-for-30 shooting and 4-for-16 behind the arc. Another key factor: Cornell got to the free throw line 29 times (making 25) as opposed to just five trips in the Ithaca game.
What has the return of Errick Peck after losing a season due to a knee injury meant to this team?
Probably not as much as the coaching staff or fan base had hoped. Peck has, easily, the best offensive skill set of any player on the roster. But there are still too many times when you don’t notice him on the floor for long stretches. When he’s confident and assertive, he can be a real difference-maker.
This game seems like a matchup between a squad with many a guard and a team reliant on size and inside play. Is that fair to say?
That’s definitely true, as even Cornell’s bigs (Eitan Chemerinski, Josh Figini, Shonn Miller) are more athletic or quick than physically imposing. I also look at it this way: an inconsistent team vs. a consistent one. I know Princeton’s had some tough losses this year, and at times hasn’t finished games as well, but you know going in that the Tigers are going to defend you hard, make good decisions with the ball and run through the talents of an outstanding senior in Ian Hummer. Cornell can be infuriating to watch: the Big Red are like observing a seismograph during an earthquake. Up-down, up-down, up-down. They are thoroughly unpredictable.
You also have a team that plays at a rapid pace (54th nationally in pace) against a Princeton team that's 333rd.
Bill Courtney wants to play fast. This Cornell team is super athletic for an Ivy, they play a lot of guys and they really aren’t foot slow at any position. Sometimes the pace catches up to them in the form of poor decisions, but Courtney has stuck with his philosophy. Cornell wants to speed you up, run 10-12 guys at you, and take you out of your comfort zone. They’ll at least have fresh legs to attempt this Friday night.
Looking at the numbers, Cornell appears to have struggled offensively through 19 games. Is there any root cause you can single out? Personally, I'm somewhat surprised their three point shooting percentage is as low as it is.
I think point guard remains Cornell’s biggest Achilles heel. They really don’t have a natural point guard, a player who can control a game, think the game, direct the game, set up teammates and occasionally be counted on to knock down a perimeter shot. When you look at Cornell’s backcourt personnel, Nolan Cressler and Dominick Scelfo are really your only reliable three-point shooters. Johnathan Gray is streaky. As for the bigs, Figini is the only threat – he loves the top of the key three.
Despite the size they might give up frequently, Cornell doesn't allow a lot of second chances on the glass.
Cornell’s guards do rebound well, certainly. It’s a group with length, athleticism and physical strength. Galal Cancer, Gray, Cressler, Devin Cherry – each of those guys rebounds his position well.
Shonn Miller was last season's Ivy League Rookie of the Year and leads the Big Red with 10.3 points per game. What sort of progress has he made from year one to year two? I'm struck by how strong a defensive rebounder he is.
He’s an outstanding defensive player. Not only protecting the rim, but his ability to trap and tip passes and read passing lanes: on that side of the floor, he’s already elite. His interior offensive game has developed: he’s better at scoring inside. The key for him is to commit to being inside scoring threat and not float to the perimeter. I’m sure opposing coaches love seeing him float.
10 different players have started games for Bill Courtney's team with only Miller and Johnathan Gray on the floor at the open of all 19 contests. How much was he struggling to find a combination that worked and how successful has he been?
I think Bill Courtney’s rotation has tightened this year, despite a lot of the interchangeable starting pieces. He’ll still play the hot hand, but the individual inconsistency of so many guys has forced his hand to try different combinations. For the record: a lot of these guys have had ample opportunity to play consistent basketball, and haven’t done it. I don’t think the inconsistency is a byproduct of Courtney’s rotation.
I haven't had a chance to see freshman Nolan Cressler in action. What can you tell me about him beyond the fact he averages 7.8 ppg?
Really like his game. His defense will come, but he’s a 6-foot-4 scorer with a good jumper. He’s shooting 41% from the arc, he’s an intelligent player and he’s a strong rebounder. He’ll also go off the dribble, so he’s not a one-dimensional scorer. Unselfish also. He has a bright future.
Cornell improves to 2-1 in conference if...
...it can defend Princeton’s stuff and limit the Tigers to one opportunity. Cornell’s halfcourt offense is painful to watch, but Cancer is coming off a career game in a season that has otherwise been frustrating. Watch Cancer closely – his decision-making with the ball can turn Cornell from a clunker to a threat, or vice versa, quickly.
Princeton remains undefeated during their Ivy slate if...
...the Tigers play with effort and intelligence. This matchup tilts strongly in their favor, particularly with how tough they are to beat at Jadwin. Their length and toughness should bother Cornell’s younger guys. If Princeton can keep Cornell to under 60 points – and that’s a real possibility – the Tigers will be in great shape.
Can you update people on things in Ithaca for you? Anything new folks should be following?
I’ve been off the newspaper beat for over a year and a half now, but I contribute content and analysis to the local ESPN Radio affiliate in Ithaca. I’m now teaching one journalism course per semester at Ithaca College, and thoroughly enjoying working a schedule that doesn’t end at 1:00 am every night. Thanks again Jon!