In their first game back after their extended break, the Cornell Big Red took an eight-point lead at Niagara with seven minutes left, led by big man Josh Warren. But the Purple Eagles stormed back and stole the game from the Big Red with a second to go, winning 77-74.
Niagara guard Keleaf Tate hit a wide open fading three-pointer with 1.1 seconds remaining when big man Dominic Robb saved the ball from going out of bounds, after Steven Julian swatted the original go-ahead three for one of his five blocks on the day. Niagara improved to 5-4 after previously coming off of wins against Pitt and New Hampshire, and Cornell fell to 4-5 with another game waiting for them in less than 24 hours.
Matt Morgan led Cornell with 22 points and shot the three ball well at a 4-of-8 clip but was just 2-of-7 from two, missing a few layups early that we almost always see him make. Josh Warren had a career high 20 points, shooting an efficient 8-of-14 from the field. Jimmy Boeheim was in double-digits with 12 points, including two threes. Steven Julian had maybe his best career game, having 10 rebounds, eight points and five blocks. Bryan Knapp and Joel Davis saw a little bit more time than usual, as Jack Gordon did not suit up, and Morgan spent some second-half time on the bench and the locker room for undisclosed reasons.
Right from the beginning, you could tell that the teams were pretty even, going back and forth throughout the first half. Both teams did not really shoot the ball well, Cornell shooting about 44 percent and Niagara shooting about 40 percent. Niagara made more shots but took 10 more shots and got those shots off Cornell’s 10 turnovers. Ten turnovers for a game is pretty good, but Niagara had just four. Cornell got to the line, and 86 percent of their shots fell. Niagara shot 71 percent from the line, all of their misses coming from Marvin Prochet, who reached the 1,000-point plateau for the Purple Eagles.
Niagara took a 71-70 lead with 1:20 to go, and then on the other end, Morgan missed a three, looking somewhat impatient. Troy Whiteside fouled Marvin Prochet on a drive to the hoop and missed the front end of the 1-and-1, giving the Big Red the ball where Morgan took it to the hoop and was fouled, making both foul shots.
After a Niagara timeout, Steven Julian fouled Prochet again, where he hit one of his two free throws, now in the double bonus. Matt Morgan was fouled again taking it down the court, and made both of his shots. Prochet took it down and shot a three, which was blocked by Steven Julian and Dominic Robb saved the ball from going out of bounds by throwing it over his head to Tate, who then swished the fateful three-pointer. With a second left, Matt Morgan shot a wide, open three-quarter court shot, but it was off.
Marvin Prochet and Keleaf Tate registered 24 and 23 points respectively.
Statistically, Cornell should have won that game. They beat Niagara in just about every stat category besides turnovers, offensive rebounds, and well, clearly points. Cornell did shoot the ball better than the stats say.
Cornell’s defense struggled at times, giving up a season-high 10 three-pointers, and Niagara only hit six more two pointers than threes. In defense of Cornell’s, well, defense, Niagara did hit a few tough deep shots.
Going into this game, Cornell was No. 236 in KenPom rankings, and Niagara was No. 253. Not a good loss by any means for the Big Red.
The Big Red need to get over the loss quick, as they are right back at it Monday at home against KenPom No. 302 Longwood. Cornell beat Longwood last year 69-62 in Lancers territory (Farmville, Va.).
Cornell and Longwood collide Monday at 7 p.m. at Newman Arena and is on ESPN+, as is every home game and Ivy League game for the remainder of the season.