By Chuckie Maggio, @ChuckieMaggio
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies wrap their non-conference schedule up on national television today when they face the Cornell Big Red at 2 p.m. at the Reilly Center. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
Cornell enters today’s game with an 0-12 record and an 18-game losing streak overall–the longest streak in Division I. St. Bonaventure enters the game with a 9-4 record, on the heels of a two-game win streak with victories over Niagara and Delaware.
While Cornell’s record is definitely ugly, they have had a few bright spots so far this season. First of all, they’ve played a challenging non-conference schedule highlighted by away games against Notre Dame, Syracuse and Louisville. Cornell’s personnel is mostly made up of freshmen and sophomores, in direct contrast to St. Bonaventure’s veteran starting lineup. The backcourt is its strength, with sophomore Nolan Cressler leading the team with 16.7 points per game and freshman Robert Hatter next with an average of 11.3 points a contest.
That being said, the Bonnies will win this game as long as its frontcourt dominates the Big Red’s forwards. David Tarwater is averaging 7.2 points a game, while shooting 38 percent from the field. Neither David Onourah or Deion Giddens have been consistent when given the start in the other forward spot. The only Cornell forward who really matches up to Bonnies center Youssou Ndoye in size, 6-foot-11 sophomore Braxton Bunce, has not performed well enough to earn a spot in coach Bill Courtney’s rotation.
Simply put, the Bonnies need to get an early lead and never look back today. Cornell is not a team they should be giving an opportunity to steal a win at the Reilly Center; they need to dispatch the Big Red handily in this one.
What do they need to do to make that happen? It comes down to three simple strategies for the Bonnies. One.) Pound the ball inside to Ndoye and Marquise Simmons, as well as Dion Wright and Chris Dees off the bench. Two.) Do an excellent job guarding the perimeter, because Cornell attempts 25 shots a game from behind the arc. Three.) Make free throws.
It’s no secret that the Bonnies have struggled from the stripe this year, making just 65 percent of its freebies. In the last three games, they’ve actually shot sub-50 percent from the free-throw line (48 percent). That needs to be righted tomorrow before Atlantic-10 play begins. Coach Mark Schmidt is 3-0 in his career against Cornell, and I don’t see that changing today. The Bonnies will defend home court and prevail in a dominating display of basketball.