ITHACA – The Cornell Men’s Basketball team finally broke its 10-game losing streak with victories over Division III opponents SUNY Purchase and Elmira College.
They took down Purchase last week by a score of 100-68 thanks to 21 points off the bench from Dean Noll and 18 points off the bench from Greg Dolan. The team was actually down by one point at the half, but the Big Red took control in the final 20 minutes.
Against Elmira Monday, the team was phenomenal on defense, allowing just 33 points in a 70-33 victory. Riley Voss led the way with 14 points and Josh Warren added 10.
“Winning is hard,” said coach Brian Earl. “We have to go to some teams that beat up on us a little bit, and that can demoralize you, and some close losses. Just sort of figuring out that you can put all the effort in and actually come out with a win.”
But the biggest story over the two games was the fact that Jimmy Boeheim didn’t play due to injury.
“He was in a boot down there. We’re just taking it day by day. He’s trying to get out there as soon as he can,” Earl said.
Boeheim sprained his ankle over a week ago, and his status for Saturday’s Ivy League opener is unknown.
But there were a lot of positives that came from the two games, primarily the bench production. Guys like Dean Noll, Greg Dolan, Riley Voss and Kobe Dickson were coming in and making a difference.
“Some guys are gaining confidence,” Earl said. “Some inexperience has shown this year in big moments. Once you get halfway through a season, you realize that you’re meant to be here and you need to put the work in.”
So the nonconference portion of the schedule ended up less than ideal for the Big Red. After a 20-point victory to open up the season, they dropped back-to-back one point games against Bryant and NJIT.
Following that, they played DePaul and Syracuse. The Blue Demons went on an early run to put away the Big Red, but the team held strong with the Orange for 30 minutes.
Cornell then went to the Baltimore area and dropped an overtime contest to Coppin State and an 11-point decision to Navy. After a cancellation against Towson, the team lost to Lafayette on a last-second shot to fall to 1-7.
Then, the team blew back-to-back double-figure leads to both Colgate and Hartford, then proceeded to get manhandled by Penn State before the recent two victories.
So their 3-10 nonconference record consisted of three blowout wins, two one-point losses, a two-point loss, a three-point defeat, a four-point loss, eight and 11-point losses, and defeats by 19 points, 21 points and 31 points.
The team has definitely learned a lot. A lot of its losses stemmed from poor perimeter shooting, but that seems to be going slowly in the right direction. Hopefully Cornell can learn a lot from those close losses to be able to pull out games in conference play.
And conference play begins on Saturday for the Big Red. They are at Columbia at 7 p.m., before hosting the Lions the following Saturday in Ithaca. The Ivy opener will be live on ESPN+ from Levien Gym in Manhattan.