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College Hoops’ Day in Providence, RI

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 25, 2007

Brown versus Cornell, 2/24/07
Brown University Bears Basketball images

Limited men’s college basketball report: Saturday, February 24, 2007. Spending the week and weekend in Tiverton, RI. Nice place on the water, throwing the frisbee for the dog, jump starting the rusted-out ’89 Chevy pick-up, using a bicycle pump to inflate the long flattened tires, hanging around, in-and-out, watching games. Creighton/Wichita State, Iowa State/Kansas, BC/Clemson: they’re all on. Settle into the Syracuse/PC match-up while keeping an eye on the Eagles, making sure they get the win and both feet in the Selection Committee’s door. ‘Cuse/Friars grabs my interest because they’re both on the bubble, tussling for their 2006-07 basketball lives. Plus PC coach, Tim Welsh, was an assistant at Syracuse and one of Welsh’s assistants is a former point guard for The Orangemen. (Picked all this up and more in the perfect-Sunday-morning-read college game reports in The Sunday ProJo. They had writers everywhere: The Dunk [10,000 in attendance], URI [6,000+], Brown [1,100+], even at RIC in the Little East title game. Awesome babe-e-e-e-!) Big threes by both squads, missed layup, blown call by an official, ‘Cuse by 4. Friars in need of absolution.

Take me west, Little Rhody, over to Kingston, where the Fordham Rams (“super team, show ’em that you’re not just a wild dream”, sung to “Jesus Christ Superstar”) go box-and-one on URI coach Jim Baron’s son, Jimmy Baron, the leading three-point shooter in the country, hold him to ZERO field goals, and come out with a 71-62 win to deny URI Rams a shot at Atlantic 10 title.

Decide late afternoon to take-in live and in-person the Brown Bears/Cornell Big Red contest at The Pizzitola Sports Center at Brown. Park right outside the door, pay ten bucks (twenty with wife/date), fourth row seat directly across from the Brown bench, the better to study the coaching calls/demeanor/style of first year Brown headman, Craig Robinson. First thing you notice is Robinson is wearing a very expensive suit, but no tie. Cornell’s coach, Steve Donahue, a Philly guy through and through, is wearing a tie, but no jacket and what appear from the distance to be Docker khakis. Robinson is tall, Donahue is not. Robinson rarely stands during the game, Donahue never sits. Both coaches aim to get to the top of the Ivy League. The passion and energy with which their teams play this particular game makes it clear they each have a good chance of doing exactly that.

They come to the game at different stages: Robinson, in his first year, has let it be known that he expects to succeed and soon. From where does the confidence come? Check out the man’s life resume. And what makes Docker Donahue think an Ancient Eight title can be had in the Gorges of Ithaca? Well, he’s led The Big Red to its third consecutive plus .500 Ivy League season, sat at the right hand of Fran Dunphy at Penn for years and has players who have won 11 of the 12 Ivy Rookie of the Week honors thus far this year. They’ve got it goin’. With the Princeton program in a fog and Penn perhaps vulnerable because they’re graduating their best and are led by a non-Philly head coach, Glen Miller (not to underestimate Glenn Miller but you look for chinks in the armour wherever you can), which may make recruiting less robust than the norm, there’s a chance here for someone to move in.

Both teams played extremely hard. (Mark McAndrew, Brown and the Ivies leading scorer, hustles, drives and dives, shoots his way to a career high 33 points then hops off the court on one leg, all cramping and spasming, with a minute left). Both teams wrought turnovers when they extended pressure. Cornell was in control, really, the whole game. Brown has zero post presence, zero, which severely limits them in the Princeton-style offense. (No post, not one backdoor cut and catch, some hesitant outside shooters . . . how does Brown stay in, and win some, games?) Cornell relied on, and won the game with, their freshmen shooters, Whitman (if there were a NCAA Freshmen Three Point Shooting Contest at year’s end, he would be a lock nominee) and Dale, who combined on 9 for 16 shooting from behind the arc. Whoosh! from the corner. Whoosh! from the wing. Again and again. Threes add up quickly. (How were they getting so open?) Ball game. It will be interesting to watch these two programs in the coming years. I’m rooting for them both.

Officiating: B-. Cheerleaders: A+ (for Ivies. In cheer after cheer, they spelled Brown, correctly, with their pompoms!). Band: MIA. Half-time refreshments: Water? “we’re out”. Juice? “we’re out”. Popcorn, please?: “this ain’t The Palestra*”. (Yet.)

* The Cathedral of Basketball (The Palace of Holy Hoops)

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