With their Ivy League standing and reputation as first-rate home players hanging in the balance, the men’s basketball team can be sure of one thing — all eyes are on them.
After a fruitless weekend on the road, the Bulldogs (11-10, 3-3 Ivy) returned home last Saturday with two Ivy League losses on their record — a 17 point loss to Princeton and a 22-point loss to Penn. This weekend, the Elis hope to redeem themselves in games against Columbia (8-11, 1-5) on Friday and Cornell (9-11, 4-2) on Saturday.
If the Bulldogs hope to see a post-season, the team, with a precarious league record of 3-3, needs to secure wins over the Lions and the Big Red this weekend.
“Our league games are basically must-wins for the rest of the season,” Ross Morin ’09 said. “We are going to go out there this weekend and try our best to win them.”
Despite the team’s disappointing defeats last weekend, coach James Jones said he does not think that the team has lost its momentum.
“My main concern is that we get back on the right track with our winning ways, and I know we can do that,” Jones said.
Although Columbia is tied for last in the league, the Lions and the Bulldogs, who are fourth in the Ancient Eight, are actually fairly similar. Like the Elis, Columbia has a strong bench with nine players averaging more than 15 minutes of play. The Lions’ biggest threats, 6-foot-8 sophomore forward John Baumann and 6-foot-9 sophomore center Ben Nawchukwu, are just that — big.
“Their forwards are big, strong, physical guys,” Morin said.
Nawchuku, in particular, should be a good match for starting center Dominick Martin ’06. The two share similar stats, Nawchuku averaging 11.4 points and 6.3 rebounds and Martin averaging 11.9 points and 5.8 rebounds.
“This matchup will be fascinating,” Jones said. “But with Dominick as a senior and Ben as a sophomore, I think Dom will show more leadership and skill.”
Saturday, the Elis face off against Cornell, a team that shares third in the League. But despite the Big Red’s higher standing, the Elis said they are not discouraged.
“It’s just another game against a team in our league,” Jones said.
Still, guard Chris Andrews ’09 said Cornell is “a really good team.”
Adam Gore, a freshman guard who leads the Big Red with 13.5 points a game, has been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week six times this season. Lenny Collins, a senior guard/forward, was recently named an ESPN Academic All-District athlete. These two players, combined with the momentum of a three game winning streak, will make Cornell a tough opponent.
The Elis, who have previously played much better at home, said they feel confident going into this weekend.
“The crowd behind you definitely gives you an extra push,” Martin said.
A week of focused practice, the comfort of being at home and the energy of the crowd just might be enough to change the tide in the Elis’ favor. Travis Pinick ’09 certainly seems to think so.
“We’re going to play hard and we’re going to play our game,” Pinick said. “I think we’ll be OK.”