For the last three years, I have attended Cornell’s season opener against the Binghamton Bearcats. Both schools are a manageable drive north on I-81 from my home near Scranton. Each of these games has offered an interesting sideline, a story within the story, beyond the final score.
Two years ago, Brian Earl was making his head coaching debut at Cornell. At the same time, Binghamton’s shooting guard, J.C. Show, a product of my local high school who had been mildly pursued by Earl’s Tigers, took the court for the first time since transferring from Bucknell. Show’s 26 points helped Binghamton spoil Earl’s first game, while rather thoroughly mixing my emotions.
Last year, the teams tipped off in Ithaca. For the first time, Jimmy Boeheim, son of the Hall of Famer, appeared in a Cornell uniform. His parents and I were there to witness the event. The elder Boeheim first came to my attention when he played for the Scranton Miners in the old Eastern League in the 1960’s. His gritty, baseline-to-baseline combativeness won the hearts of thousands of fans in blue collar Scranton. When I encountered him at a concession stand during halftime, his reaction was typical coach Boeheim: “Get out of my way … ”
His son made a promising debut, as Matt Morgan and Stone Gettings proved too much for the visiting Bearcats.
This year the backstory is Morgan’s return to Cornell for the final season of one of the greatest Ivy League careers of all time. Sadly, Stone Gettings has taken his considerable skills elsewhere, leaving Morgan pretty much on his own for his last year. So far so good. The redoubtable senior responded in the opener with a career-high 38 points, adding 13 rebounds and three steals. Cornell broke open a close one in the final six minutes to notch a double-digit win, 86-75. Morgan scored 11 of his team’s 13 points in this stretch. The younger Boeheim scored 20 points, a career high for the sophomore.
Morgan’s stat line was typically impressive: 10-for-15 from the field (5-for-8 from three) while making 13 of 14 free throws. In the course of this one he became the second-leading all-time scorer in Cornell history with 1,684 points one game into his senior year. It appears, however, that Bill Bradley’s 2,503-point record is out of reach … or is it?
To succeed, Cornell will need Morgan to produce a similar stat line every night, something that even he may find difficult to achieve. But if he stays healthy, the Big Red will compete in every game, making life miserable for a lot of Ivy foes. It is certain that he will make history every night.
Go see him if you can.