Cornell has already had a taste of Big East action this season, and it struggled against a mediocre team. A matchup with undefeated Syracuse certainly won’t be any easier.
The 16th-ranked Orange look to win their 31st straight game against the Big Red when the intrastate rivals meet at the Carrier Dome on Wednesday night.
Defending Ivy League champion Cornell (4-3) had a tough time in its first game against a Big East team this season, falling 86-75 on Nov. 17 to a St. John’s program that is in rebuilding mode. Now the Big Red will face an Orange team that has two wins over Top 25 squads and continues to climb in the rankings.
That’s a tall order for Cornell, which is 0-16 against Syracuse (7-0) at the Carrier Dome and hasn’t beaten the Orange since a 93-81 victory on Dec. 4, 1968.
Though it played two close games against then-No. 17 Florida and then-No. 22 Kansas, Syracuse is outscoring its opponents by an average of 15.8 points.
The Orange’s latest win was on Monday night, 86-51 against Colgate. It was the fifth time Syracuse has topped the 80-point mark.
Jonny Flynn usually paces the Orange on offense, but versus Colgate he took a back seat to Paul Harris, who scored 22 points in 21 minutes. The third-year forward, who has a tendency to look to his teammates on offense much too often, may have experienced a breakthrough in practice.
“Coach (Jim Boeheim) kind of put me on the second team,” Harris said. “He just was trying something and I was dominating, doing so much for the second team.
“He pulled me out and said, ‘That’s what I need you to do in the game. I think you’re kind of sitting back and watching Jonny and them too much. Just play your game, do what you do best.’”
Harris is third in scoring on a deep Syracuse team, averaging 13.9 points, and is the teams’ top rebounder, pulling down 8.9 a contest.
Flynn, averaging a team-high 18.9 points, had a season-low 12 Monday. The sophomore guard also averages 5.3 assists and 1.9 steals a game while shooting 42.3 percent from 3-point range.
“It all starts with the point guard and he’s pressuring the ball and has been playing outstanding defense,” Boeheim said. “He’s scored when we need him to, he’s made some good plays and he’s definitely off to a great start.”
Cornell got a combined six points from starting guards Chris Wroblewski and Geoff Reeves in a 72-57 loss to Indiana on Sunday. Reeves was held 11 points below his season average (14.0).
Leading scorer Ryan Wittman, though, finished with a career-high 28 points in a game in which he reached 1,000 for his career. Wittman, son of Minnesota Timberwolves coach and former Indiana player Randy Wittman, made five 3-pointers and added five rebounds and two steals while playing all 40 minutes.
The junior forward is averaging 21.0 points and 4.0 rebounds a game for Cornell, which is 3-58 versus ranked teams.
Syracuse leads the all-time series 84-31.