On Wednesday night, Cornell had its home opener against Colgate. Coming into the contest, the Red had lost its first two games against Binghamton and Siena. The Red Raiders arrived with a 0-1 record, courtesy of a 28 point loss to Syracuse. The game was the 128th meeting between the upstate New York rivals, and the first matchup between coach Brian Earl of Cornell and coach Matt Langel of Colgate. The two coaches were friendly rivals during their playing days, Earl at Princeton and Langel at Penn, and childhood friends going back to the eighth grade.
Cornell forward Stone Gettings scored the first seven points of the game, helping the Red to an early nine point lead. Unfortunately, Gettings picked up two quick fouls and sat for most of the first half. Colgate took advantage of this and tied the game in the next five minutes. Over the remainder of the first half, the two teams were within a point or two of each other and ended up going into the locker rooms tied at 31.
In the second half, the teams remained close with eight lead changes. There were several times where the Red Raiders were on the verge of opening a large lead, but Cornell would battle back. With two minutes to go and the shot clock expiring, Colgate’s Sean O’Brien appeared to lose control of the ball. Somehow, O’Brien recovered and hit a contested three from the top of the arc to give the Red Raiders its largest lead of seven.
With the game slipping away, Cornell stormed back with Gettings grabbing an offensive board and posting a beautiful spin move for a quick two. On the squad’s next trip down, Matt Morgan broke free of his man, grabbed an inbounds pass at the baseline, and got fouled as he sank the basket. After making the foul shot for an old-fashioned three-pointer, O’Brien was pressured in the backcourt and coughed the ball up to Morgan, who was quickly fouled. Morgan made one of two free throws to male it 60-59 with 75 seconds remaining.
Colgate got a layup and two free throws from Malcolm Regisford, while Morgan hit two free throws for Cornell. Down three, 64-61, with 18 seconds left, Morgan drove the lane for a reverse layup, but first-year forward Will Rayman blocked the shot, essentially ending Cornell’s evening. A few moments later, Cornell had lost 67-63 and found itself at 0-3.
Matt Morgan led Cornell with 26 points, including 11 of 12 from the free throw line. Despite playing less than four minutes in the first half, Stone Gettings tallied 14 points, including two three-pointers, and six rebounds. Robert Hatter ended up with 10 points. For Colgate, Sean O’Brien had 18 points and Malcom Regisford added 10 points, including six points and a block in the last three minutes. Will Rayman just missed a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds, in addition to his game-securing block.
As a team, Cornell shot 41 percent overall, 23 percent (3-for-13) from three, 67 percent from the charity stripe, six assists and 14 turnovers. Colgate shot 42 percent, 37 percent (7-for-19) from beyond the arc, 50 percent (6-for-12) from the line, 10 assists and 14 turnovers.
After three games, the Red has greatly improved on its rebounding. Despite having two of its main front court players out, David Onuorah has missed the last two games due to an illness and Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof has been out recovering from off-season surgery, the team has gone from a -10.4 rebounding margin last season to +2.0 this year.
Offensively, Morgan is leading the team with 19.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. Gettings has taken to his starting roll by averaging 14.7 points and six rebounds a game, large jumps from last year. Hatter is averaging 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds a game. With the injuries, first-year forward Josh Warren has been thrown into the fire and positively responded with six points and six rebounds a game.
Collectively, Cornell does need to improve its shooting, especially the 23 percent from three and the 65 percent from the free throw line. The Red has to work on improving its 9.3 assists per game, as they continue to learn a system based on complex player and ball movement. Defensively, the squad also has to find a way to dig deep late in games, and get some crucial stops to turn these close loses into victories.
While there were signs of frustration after another loss on Wednesday, the team and its coach have to continue to believe in themselves and the system as they get deeper into the schedule. Hopefully, the Red can build on this performance against Lafayette on Sunday, and secure its first victory of the 2016-17 season.