Cornell stifles Columbia for first Division I win in nearly three months

ITHACA, N.Y. – Cornell limited Columbia guards Jack Forrest and Mike Smith to a combined 7-for-32 shooting night as the Big Red took down the Lions, 62-50, at Newman Arena to pick up their first Ivy League win and first Division I win since Nov. 5.

The Big Red (4-11, 1-1 Ivy) were led by a balanced attack on offense while limiting the Lions (6-11, 1-1) to 32% shooting on defense. That was mainly due to Bryan Knapp’s all-around effort for the Big Red. He was tasked with guarding Mike Smith, who scored just 15 points on 5-for-23 shooting.

“We were just forcing him left, [isolating] him as much as we could, just team defense,” said Knapp. “We knew if we could shut him down, that was it. The last five minutes, the gameplan was ‘Bryan, don’t let him get the ball.'”

Things got off to a good start for the Big Red as they sent Jack Forrest to the Columbia bench with two fouls in as many minutes.

“It was big,” said Cornell head coach Brian Earl. “We were keying on doing a better job on him. The two fouls helped, but he was definitely on the scouting report.”

Columbia led the majority of the first half but never led by more than four. Smith got a lane at the buzzer to end the half but missed a completely wide-open layup.

The Big Red came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders in the second half. Knapp scored five points right out of the gate, and then Jimmy Boeheim hit a layup and split a pair of free throws for an opening 8-0 run for the hosts.

Jack Forrest hit two three-pointers within a minute for his only points of the night to get the game back to two with a Terrance McBride floater sandwiched in-between. Following was a three for Jimmy Boeheim.

Throughout the early portion of the second half, the Lions could only really match the Big Red and couldn’t get closer than within a few points.

The Lions did briefly cut it to one with 13:13 left, but the Big Red went on another 8-0 run. Terrance McBride and Dean Noll each hit a three, and Josh Warren sunk a pair of free throws.

Columbia continued to hand tight and was down just seven with 5:01 left. Boeheim hit another three, and Josh Warren converted a pretty reverse to give the home team a comfortable 12-point lead and would hold on to win by 12.

“We were 6-of-12 [from three] in the second half, so sometimes when the ball goes in, it’s helpful,” Earl said.

Boeheim led the way for the Big Red with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

“Last game I kind of forced a few shots, so I came out trying to get my teammates involved early and find them when they double,” Boeheim said of his offensive effort.

Terrance McBride chipped in with 13 points and eight rebounds. Josh Warren, who had 11 points, six rebounds, and four assists. Bryan Knapp added 10 points.

“My teammates in practice are always telling me to shoot, and sometimes I’m a little hesitant, and they get on me about that,” said Knapp.

“He has really taken it upon himself,” Earl said of Knapp. “He was a really big scorer out of high school and we pointed out that his defense needed a lot of improvement and it’s a testament to him to really enjoy doing it now.”

Tai Bibbs contributed eight points, and Randy Brumant, Ike Nweke, and Jake Killingsworth each pitched in seven for the Lions.

The Big Red had 11 turnovers to Columbia’s nine, an impressive outcome since the two teams combined for nine turnovers in the first five minutes of the game.

Both teams struggled greatly from the free throw line. Cornell shot 9-for-18 (50%), but Columbia fared even worse: 7-for-15 (46.7%).

“We’ve lost so many close games in so many different ways, I was a little nervous that we might have found a new way to lose,” said Earl.

The two teams are back in action next weekend as they take on Brown and Yale in the first back-to-back of the season. The Big Red get the Bears on Friday, the Bulldogs on Saturday, and vice-versa for the Lions. All contests are live on ESPN+.

Gabe Stefanini didn’t play for the Lions but was shooting pregame. Jordan Jones and Kobe Dickson didn’t play for the Big Red.

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