The Cornell Big Red entertained the Columbia Lions in the Ivy opener for both schools in frigid and snowy Ithaca. The tip-off was moved up to 1:30 p.m. in anticipation of the first big winter storm of the season.
Matt Morgan, the Ivy’s leading scorer, was honored in a pregame ceremony upon entering the league’s 2,000-point club in his last outing. Entering the game needing six points to surpass the legendary Ryan Wittman as Cornell’s career leader, Morgan needed only five minutes to set the new mark. His 21 points for the game vaulted him into fourth place on the Ivy career scoring list. He is on a pace to move up to the No. 2 spot, trailing only Bill Bradley.
Morgan’s early flourish jump started Cornell to a 14-0 lead. At the break, the Big Red held a commanding 39-25 lead, thanks to nine three-pointers against only two for the Lions. Morgan’s 19 first-half tallies more than tripled the output of any Lion.
Unfortunately for the Lions, their cold shooting persisted into the second half. Columbia needed almost six minutes to record their second field goal. With about 13 minutes remaining Cornell enjoyed the largest lead of the afternoon, 50-32. Timeout Columbia.
Whatever Jim Engles said to his beleaguered quintet, a different team emerged from the brief respite. The Big Red went ice cold, while the Lions, sparked by the efforts of Gabe Stefanini, went on a 26-7 run. This remarkable stretch was capped by three straight Stefanini hoops, to give the visitors their only lead of the contest, 58-57, with 2:31 remaining.
Cornell regrouped. A Jimmy Boeheim three at the 2:02 mark restored the Big Red’s lead at 60-58. The affair turned into a sloppy turnover fest at that point. Missed shots by the Lions resulted in one-and-one opportunities for both Morgan and Boeheim in the final minute. Both missed the front end. A Cornell foul sent Stefanini to the line for two shots to tie the game with 3.8 seconds remaining. He missed the second! Columbia snared the offensive rebound but barely drew iron at the buzzer. Cornell hung on, 60-59.
Columbia did an excellent job on Morgan in the second half, holding the senior to just two points. The difference in the game can be traced to the three-point stats. Cornell made 13 to five for the Lions. Stefanini canned 18 for the Lions, no consolation after missing the chance to send the game into overtime.
These teams square off again next week in Manhattan.