Cornell’s stellar defense makes up for poor offense in overtime win at Lafayette

It wasn’t much warmer in the Kirby Sports Center in Easton, Pa. than it was in Ithaca Wednesday, with teams from both towns

shooting percentages not much higher than the temperature, but it wouldn’t matter as Cornell was able to sneak by for a 63-58 victory in overtime. Cornell improved to 4-3, while Lafayette dropped to 2-4. Lafayette and Cornell each shot 36 percent and 37 percent respectively from the field.

Matt Morgan struggled in the game, connecting on four shots in 12 attempts and didn’t extend his streak of consecutive games with at least 10 points until late in the overtime period. The streak does live another day, now at 58 games. It would be Josh Warren who stepped up for Cornell, adding a career-high 17 points on just three misses, while having an active night on the boards with seven rebounds. Jack Gordon and Jake Kuhn had two three-pointers each, with Gordon hitting one of them with 1:47 in regulation to take a lead, while Kuhn’s threes were back-to-back in the middle of the second half.

The Big Red got off to a terrible start, with having just two points through the game’s first seven and a half minutes, coming off a tough pull-up jumper from Terrance McBride. Cornell trailed the entire first half, being down double-digit points for most of it while Lafayette got rebounds at will. The Big Red were able to cut the deficit to four points, and opened the second half on a quick 7-0 run to take a lead. Cornell led for most of the second half but never by more than three points.

With the Big Red up by one point with 26 ticks left, Josh Warren connected on a layup off a nice move to go up three. The Leopards inbounded on the side after a battle for the ball with Terrance McBride, and Alex Petrie swished a wide-open 30-foot three-pointer with six seconds to go. Cornell head coach Brian Earl designed a play for Matt Morgan as a game-winner, but he missed from the elbow and off to overtime we went, 52 all.

Just seconds into overtime, Lafayette took a quick lead off a little jumper from Alex Petrie. A few possessions later, Josh Warren hit a three for Cornell, and hit one of two free throws with about a minute left, missing the second but hauled in by Warren himself, and got it down low for Jack Gordon for the finish, at a spot where he got blocked two times previously. Matt Morgan then drove a possession later for a layup and that just about sealed it, and was made official as the Big Red went three of four from the charity stripe in the remaining seconds.

As said earlier, both teams shot between 37 and 38 percent from the field, and Cornell was a rough 7-of-24 from three. They would limit Lafayette to just three three-pointers in 17 attempts. Cornell was out rebounded 37-31, but managed a well below average six turnovers compared to Lafayette’s 13.

This game was both Cornell’s best win and worst win of the season. The Big Red shot the ball terribly, the third time in five games they have done so. Most nights, 6’2 Matt Morgan is outrebounding big men Steven Julian and Josh Warren, and that can’t happen. You love the production from Morgan but need to see more from the big men.

Morgan really couldn’t get anything going, even missing some time in the second half for what appeared to be cramping after landing awkwardly on a three-point attempt. But Cornell showed that it can win games playing defense, something many thought would be a weak spot for Cornell. Defense is actually emerging as one of the team’s bright spots, excluding the UConn game. Joel Davis was a defensive pest and had the chore of guarding 2017-18 Patriot League Rookie of the Year Alex Petrie when he was in.

Petrie notched 12 points for Lafayette, Justin Jaworski pitched in 15 points, and Myles Cherry had a very strong double-double with 14 points, 17 rebounds, and three steals.

Two notes: Matt Morgan surpassed 1,800 career points with his first shot, a three-pointer, and Cornell has already won three road games this season after having only winning four road games all last season, with two being in nonconference play.

Cornell’s next game takes them up I-81 to the Carrier Dome for a game against ACC powerhouse Syracuse Saturday at 8 p.m. in episode two of ‘Battle of the Boeheims.’. But this second game adds a third Boeheim, with Buddy Boeheim playing for his dad on Syracuse. Remember last year, Jimmy Boeheim hit a three right in front of his dad on the first possession of the game. Syracuse is coming off a big win in the ACC/BIG10 challenge over #16 Ohio State on the road.

This is Cornell’s first of two currently scheduled national television appearances this season, with the game being on ESPNU. The other is a Feb. 1 showdown against Penn at home.

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