For Cornell’s first-year head coach Brian Earl, the 2016-17 campaign was going to have challenges typical to many new Ivy League coaches. In addition to bringing some new staff and a different playing style, the coach was not able to recruit any of his own players. With only one first-year coming to East Hill in the fall, the team was similar to the one that went 10-18 overall and 3-11 in the conference last year.
After completing finals, Cornell headed west to take part in the Las Vegas Invitational. After a week traveling from Wyoming to Los Angeles to Sin City, the Red left with a 1-3 record and a small amount of optimism heading into the last stretch of nonconference games.
With the continued absence of starting center David Onuorah and no reported return date, coach Brian Earl decided to replace forward Donovan Wright with guard Troy Whiteside. With the four-guard set, the team decided to focus on winning games by improving its offensive output.
On November 30, Cornell headed into its Finals Break by beating Northeastern, 80-77, for its first home and second overall win of the season. With the campaign set to resume on Saturday against 7-2 Wyoming, where do things stand for the 2-5 Big Red?
With the hiring of former Princeton player and associate coach Brian Earl, Cornell is moving away from the guard-oriented style that was favored by its previous coach. Since former coach Bill Courtney had only one recruit arriving at East Hill this fall, the new coach was going to have to work with the same team that was 10-18 overall and 3-11 in the Ivies last year.
Last year’s squad played at a fast tempo with pressure defense and one-on-one offense. This year’s team has attempted to slow down the pace on both sides of the ball while becoming a more balanced team that focuses on player and ball movement.
Cornell traveled to Easton, Pa., looking for its first victory of the season against Lafayette. Thanks to the team’s most complete effort of the year, as well as one of the school’s all-time best individual offensive performances, the Red emerged victorious, defeating the Leopards 82-75. Not only was it the team’s first time entering the win column this year, it was Coach Earl’s first career head coaching triumph.
Sophomore forward Donovan Wright knocked down 8 of 10 three-pointers, the third highest single game total in Cornell history. His 26- point outburst easily surpassed his previous career high of seven. In addition to Wright’s heroics, the other four starters each had double digit scoring. Stone Gettings, continuing his outstanding early season play, was just shy of a triple-double with 12 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. JoJo Fallas scored 11 points, on 3-for-4 three-point shooting. Matt Morgan and Robert Hatter added 13 and 12 points, respectively.
- Cornell had a one point lead, 10-9, after the first three and a half minutes. Over the next eight minutes, the Red took control and outscored the Leopards 24-5 to take a twenty point lead. Cornell let Lafayette recover over the last eight minutes, and ended with a 12-point lead, 44-32, at halftime. In the second half, Lafayette got the lead down to nine within the first few minutes, but Cornell was able to prevent any serious threat. With nine minutes left, the Red were able to open the lead back to 17 points, 62-45. Down 14 with less than a minute to go, Lafayette made its only real run of the contest, but it was too little too late.
For the first time all season, Cornell was able to run Coach Earl’s system well. They used great ball movement, especially in the first half, to get open looks from the perimeter and back door cuts. In contrast to the first three games, the Red were able to confidently knock down these shots. Defensively, they were too quick for Lafayette, got them out of their rhythm and reduced their early attempts from the three- point line.
For the game, Cornell had season highs with 52 percent overall shooting, 56 percent (14-for-25) from three and 19 assists. The squad also had a season-low 10 turnovers. Even with the absence of starting center David Onuorah, out for the third straight game with an illness, the Red were able to stay even in rebounding with 31.
Wright, who missed all of his first year with a shoulder injury, grew up in Easton. While not as prolific as Easton’s most famous citizen, former WBC Heavyweight Champion Larry Holmes this hometown hero was able to lift the spirits of his team and coach after a disappointing opening to the season. After today’s effort, Cornell can move forward knowing that it’s opponents now have to plan for one more player who can deliver a knockout blow.
Cornell began the Brian Earl Era this past weekend with two road contests against Binghamton and Siena. By late Sunday afternoon, the Red found itself with an 0-2 record to start the season.
On Saturday night, as the Lynah Faithful filled the hockey arena for a preseason contest against Brock University, a slightly more modest crowd populated Newman Arena to watch the Cornell men’s basketball team take part in the annual Red-White Scrimmage. While the team did have three contests in Spain this August, Saturday night’s event marked the unofficial beginning of the team’s 2016-17 campaign and the crowd’s first glimpse of its new coach, Brian Earl.
The Red team consisted of Darryl Smith, Donovan Wright, Matt Morgan, Will Bathurst, Josh Warren, Kyle Brown, and Joe Bayless, while the “White” squad had David Onuorah, Robert Hatter, Desmond Fleming, Stone Gettings, JoJo Fallas, and Jack Gordon. On the sidelines for the scrimmage were Troy Whiteside, Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof, Braxston Bunce, Joel Davis and Pat Smith. After two 12-minute halves, the “Red” team defeated the White by a score of 57-46.
On Sept. 9, Cornell became the seventh Ancient Eight school to release its schedule for the upcoming 2016-17 campaign. After getting the travel bug from its August trip to Spain, the Big Red will hit the road for 18 of their 29 games in Coach Brian Earl’s first season.
The 15 game nonconference schedule will see Cornell heading away from Ithaca for trips near and far 11 times in the season’s first two months. The Big Red will have some relatively short trips for games against Binghamton, Siena, Lafayette, Monmouth, Syracuse and Albany. They will earn its frequent flier miles with trips to Houston, Laramie, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
In 2010, Cornell Athletic Director Andy Noel took two weeks to hire Virginia Tech assistant coach Bill Courtney as the replacement for the enormously successful Steve Donahue. Following the Big Red’s run to the Sweet Sixteen and Donahue’s jump to Boston College, Noel selected the former Bucknell All-Patriot League player from a final group that included Wisconsin assistant coach Gary Close and then-Temple assistant and
present Colgate head coach Matt Langel.
The last several weekends have been difficult for the Cornell basketball program. Although losses to Princeton and Yale were expected, it was hoped that there would be more competition against the top tier, along with one or two victories against Brown and Penn. Unfortunately, the Tigers and Bulldogs together averaged 30-point wins, while the Bears and Quakers were able to withstand Cornell’s pressure and emerged victorious. In the midst of a four-game losing streak, it was thought that the Ithaca arrival of Dartmouth and Harvard, two teams that were defeated on the road by the Big Red a few weeks ago, would provide the opportunity for Cornell to get back in the win column.
Early in last Saturday’s broadcast of the Penn-Cornell game, Big Red announcers Barry Leonard and Eric Taylor recounted a recent conversation with coach Bill Courtney in which the coach was unsure of the identity of his team. After 22 games and in the throes of a four-game losing streak, what does this mean for the program going forward?