Cornell opens season at 0-2

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 Friday night, Cornell traveled south on Route I-81 to the Events Center in Binghamton to face an improving Bearcats squad that finds itself as the No. 4 pick in the America East preseason poll.  With the absence of leading scorer and first-team All-American East Willie Rodriguez, the Red’s chances looked good heading into the opening game.

Both teams were cold from the floor in the first half, but Cornell was able to take a 27-24 halftime lead.  While the team shot poorly in the first half, 34 percent overall and 14 percent (2-for-14) from three, the Red did outrebound Binghamton, 25-16.

The teams stayed close in the second half with the score tied at 37 with 10 minutes remaining.  For the rest of the game, Binghamton got hot from inside and outside, while Cornell continued its long-range shooting difficulties.  The Red went 5-for-9 in two-pointers but 2-for-8 from three in the game’s last quarter. The Bearcats, however, went 5-for-6 from two and 4-for-4 from three in that same period to secure the 68-62 victory.

Cornell was led by Matt Morgan with 16 points and eight rebounds. Stone Gettings, making his first ever start, had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Robert Hatter added 13 points.  The team shot 35 percent for the game, 14 percent (4-for-29) from beyond the arc, and 70 percent (14-for-20) from the charity stripe. The Bearcats shot 40 percent from the field, with 37 percent (7-for-19) from three and 65 percent (15-for-23) from the line.  Making his Binghamton debut, transfer guard J.C. Show led the way with 23 points, 16 in the second half, and forward Dusan Perovic put in 14 points.  For the game, the Red outrebounded the Bearcats 43-39, including a 9-5 offensive advantage.

On Sunday afternoon, Cornell traveled to Albany to face Siena, the No. 2 rated team in the MAAC Conference.  With the Saints’ top five scorers returning and playing before a large opening game home crowd, Siena was favored to avenge last year’s come-from-behind Cornell 81-80 victory in Ithaca. In the end, Cornell kept the game close before the Saints pulled away in the last several minutes for a 89-78 win.

Cornell was without starting center and last year’s leading rebounder, David Onuorah, who had an illness that prevented him from making the trip.  With forward Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof’s continued absence following offseason surgery, the Red’s shallow frontcourt was thinner and less experienced than it was last season.  As a result, the team changed its opening lineup and returned to three guards: Morgan, Hatter and JoJo Fallas.  Midway through the first half, Cornell was able to open up a 24-18 lead with seven different players scoring.

Over the next 10 minutes, the Saints outscored Cornell 30-10 to take a 48-34 halftime lead.  In the game’s first quarter, Siena went 1-for-7 from three-point range and Cornell hit three of its five attempts. In the following 10 minutes, Siena went 6-for-12 from downtown, while the Red went 0-for-5.

In the second half, Cornell was able to claw back and make it a three-point contest, 67-64, with 7:30 remaining.  Like the end of the first half, the Red struggled from outside, going 0-for-4 from beyond the arc, while the Saints went 3-for-4 from three.  Siena also dominated the foul line over that time, going 9-for-13, while Cornell went 4-for-7.

For Cornell, playing a Bill Courtney-like up-tempo game, five players ended up with double digit scoring.  Morgan and Gettings had 16 points. Hatter had 12 points, while Fallas and first-year forward Josh Warren each got 10 points.  The Red shot 45 percent overall, 37 percent (7-for-19) from three and 59 percent (13-for-22) from the foul line.  Even with a depleted front court, Cornell outrebounded Siena, 41-38, with a 14-13  edge on the offensive glass.

Siena shot 42 percent on the day, with 38 percent from three (11-for-29) and 73 percent (22-for-30) from the foul line. Guard Marquis Wright and forward Brett Bisping went for 54 points, with 31 and 23 points respectively.  Javion Ogunyemi added 13 points, while batting foul trouble throughout the contest. Sophomore Nico Clareth had a rough shooting afternoon, but still managed to put up 14 points.

Going forward, Cornell will need to continue spreading the offense between the front and back courts, while maintaining its rebounding effort. The team will need to focus on having a more controlled tempo, while improving its free throws, three-point shooting and defensive effort, especially at the end of each half.

With Colgate, the sixth-ranked team in the Patriot League, coming to Newman Arena for Wednesday’s home opener, and Sunday’s trip to Lafayette, to face the Patriot League’s ninth-ranked team, hopes are high for Cornell to improve on this weekend’s effort and get back to .500 for the young season.

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