The 2012 Las Vegas Invitational gets underway on Sunday, as the Cornell Big Red come calling on the 22nd-ranked Wisconsin Badgers. The event continues through Nov. 24, and both teams will head to Sin City for the final two rounds.
Cornell opened the season with three straight home games, and the team won the first in a 63-55 decision against Western Michigan. Unfortunately, the Big Red dropped the next two, falling to St. Bonaventure (72-68) and Saint Peter's (68-64). Following this clash, Cornell will travel to Arizona State before shipping off to Las Vegas to tangle with Presbyterian and either Longwood or Florida A&M to conclude matters.
Cornell is just 5-66 all-time against nationally-ranked opponents, and the Big Red snapped an 18-game losing streak to such foes by knocking off both Temple and Wisconsin during the 2009-10 NCAA Tournament. The win over the Badgers was the only previous meeting between the two teams.
Wisconsin kicked off the new campaign with an 87-47 rout of Southeast Louisiana, and things were looking up for the team as it made the trek to the Sunshine State to tangle with the Florida Gators in game two. The Badgers proved to be no match in that contest as they dropped a 74-56 decision to even their record at 1-1. Following this clash, UW will host Presbyterian and then head west to battle with nationally-ranked Creighton, and either Arizona State or Arkansas a day later.
The Big Red trailed by eight points in the waning moments against Saint Peter's last time out, and despite a furious comeback bid still fell short in a 68-64 final. Devin Cherry led Cornell with 14 points and he grabbed seven rebounds, the team coming out on the short end of a 39-33 rebounding margin. Galal Cancer and Shonn Miller tallied 13 points apiece, while Nolan Cressler chipped in 10 points for the Big Red, who shot 36.2 percent from the field and went 15-of-18 at the free throw line. Saint Peter's hit 46.6 percent of its total shots, which included a 7-of-18 showing from beyond the arc. Cornell has had a different high scorer in each game this season, and Cancer leads the way with 11.3 ppg. Cressler nets 10.7 ppg and the team is averaging as many points as it allows (65.0 ppg). Foes are shooting just 39.5 percent from the field, which includes a 26.1 percent effort from three-point range, but the Big Red is hitting its field goals a mere 38.9 percent of the time, with its treys falling at a 32.8 percent clip.
Poor shooting and shoddy defense led to the Badgers' downfall in their recent clash with Florida. Wisconsin made good on only 35.6 percent of its field goal attempts, which included just 29.2 percent from three-point land, and the Badgers converted only half of their 14 free throws. At the other end, the Gators drained 75 percent of their shots in the first half, and 61.9 percent for the game, while going 16-of-20 at the charity stripe. Florida also dominated the glass to the tune of a 40-21 rebounding advantage, and won the game handily despite committing twice as many turnovers as did the Badgers (20-10). Jared Berggren and San Dekker both scored 11 points for UW, and the former leads the team on the young season in both scoring (15.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg). Ben Brust (10.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is the only other double- digit scorer for a Wisconsin team that is hitting 44.2 percent of its total shots and averages 71.5 ppg, while yielding 60.5 ppg on 46.9 percent field goal efficiency to the opposition.