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Syracuse vs Cornell basketball preview: Q&A with the Cornell

Tonight’s the Big Baller Boeheim Battle

NCAA Basketball: Cornell at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019-20 Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season continues as SU welcomes their long-time local rival the Cornell Big Red to the Dome. Yes it’s another Boeheim Basketball Battle as Cornell makes the trip North on I-81 to The Dome.

We asked Bennett Gross who covers the Big Red for Cornell’s student paper The Cornell Daily Sun to tell us more about this year’s team

Obviously all the attention for this one falls on the “Battle of the Boeheims”. Jimmy is averaging more points than his younger brother but has struggled the last two games. Do you think being back in the Dome will help him get back on track?

Jimmy began the season on fire, averaging 22 points in Cornell’s first two games of the season, but, as you said, has slowed down since. Despite his recent struggles, he is still leading the squad in scoring. Being back in the familiar territory of the Dome should certainly help the elder Boeheim son’s confidence, and facing off against his brother and father will most likely raise his game to the highest level Wednesday night. This is not just any other game for Jimmy, and as the star of the team, Cornell will need to rely on the junior forward If they expect to have any chance of upsetting Syracuse.

NCAA Basketball: Cornell at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Cornell came into the season having to replace all-time leading scorer Matt Morgan who also did a lot of the ball-handling. How has the team had to adjust to not having this dynamic talent?

While it is never a positive to lose an all-time great, Cornell has replaced Morgan well. The combination of junior guards Terrance McBride and Bryan Knapp, as well as sophomore Dean Noll off the bench, have been effective in making up for the lost production from Morgan. Although the scoring from the trio of guards may not be as eye-popping as Morgan’s outrageous numbers, the current rendition of the Big Red has done an exceptional job defensively against some of the best guards in the country. The Cornell guards have held Binghamton’s Sam Sessoms (the reigning America East rookie of the year) and DePaul’s Romeo Weems and Charlie Moore (both former 4-star recruits) to single digit point totals on very inefficient shooting percentages. So, because Cornell lost the second-leading scorer in Ivy League history, the Big Red’s offense is now more reliant on balanced scoring and a heavier dedication to its offensive sets, as opposed to allowing Morgan to play isolation basketball.

NCAA Basketball: Cornell at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Warren leads the Big Red in rebounds and assists. How do you think he and Boeheim will be able to be effective against the Syracuse zone?

Warren will be the X-factor for Cornell, as he will need to operate effectively out of the high post in the middle of the Syracuse 2-3 zone. Cornell will look to get him the ball around the free throw line area, and he will have to make the decision to attack the zone himself or kick the ball out to shooters and slashers. If he can consistently make the right decision in this position, Cornell should be able to score against the vaunted Syracuse defense.

Boeheim will need to improve his outside shooting from the last two games in order to break down the Syracuse zone, but, beyond his scoring contributions, Cornell will be nearly just as reliant on his attacking the basket and rebounding. However, Boeheim should have somewhat of an advantage, as he is probably as familiar with the Syracuse zone as any opponent the Orange will play this season.

When the Orange have the ball, what do you think will be the biggest challenge for Cornell’s defense?

Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj will have a clear height advantage against Cornell. So, when Syracuse is on offense, the key for Cornell will be to rebound and box out as a team. While it will be difficult enough for the Red to defend a team as talented and lengthy as Syracuse, it will be infinitely more challenging if the Orange have multiple attempts to score on each possession. Warren and Boeheim will have the difficult task of guarding the Syracuse big men, but it will be arguably more important to keep the home team off of the offensive glass.

NCAA Basketball: Seattle at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

What’s the biggest thing Cornell will need to do to pull off the upset on Wednesday night?

While the shooting numbers for Cornell the last few games have not been pretty, the team will have a chance to pull off the upset if they can make their three-point attempts consistently. The Cornell offense is set up perfectly to attack the Syracuse zone, but the Red will need to hit open shots more effectively than they have early this season. The team is comprised of above-average shooters and they are being given good looks within the flow of the offense, but the shots just have not been falling in a reliable manner so far in 2019-20. However, while it is easier said than done, if Cornell can shoot the ball at a respectable rate against Syracuse, they will be able to hang in the game long enough to have a chance to leave the Dome with a win.

What’s your prediction for the game?

Syracuse 78 Cornell 53

Syracuse has won 39 consecutive games against Cornell, and that number will very likely hit 40 at the conclusion of the contest Wednesday. While Cornell will have an opportunity to hang around if they can consistently hit outside shots and rebound effectively as a team, Syracuse’s size and length will ultimately be too much for the Red to handle.


Thanks to Bennett for taking the time to give us more insight on tonight’s match-up.