Cornell overcomes dreadful start, bests Brown in overtime

Cornell has struggled in the first half this season, and Friday night’s game against Brown was no exception. It took Cornell 12 minutes to score their first 10 points, and its defense wasn’t stellar to start either. But the Big Red eventually rallied in a nail-biter, topping the Bears, 70-66, in overtime at Newman Arena to notch their fourth straight win over Brown.

Brown was able to get a few easy baseline threes early from Desmond Cambridge and Obi Okolie, who both struggled after the first 10 minutes. Matt Morgan had a rough, three-point first half.

It was Jimmy Boeheim who stepped up early with the team struggling, scoring 13 of the team’s 27 first-half points. Cornell trailed 31-27 at the half and by as many as 13 (26-13 with 6:12 to go in the first half). It looked like a blowout in the making.

Yet again, coach Brian Earl helped dig his team out of another halftime deficit. Morgan connected on his first shot of the night with 15:21 to go, a three to pull it back to four as Brown extended the lead to nine in the first few minutes of the half. Boeheim connected down low, and then Morgan had a tough finish with a no-call to even it up at 39.

From there, it remained within a possession until Boeheim hit a layup to make it 54-49 with 4:19 to go. From there, Tamenang Choh and George Mawanda-Kalema took over for Brown, scoring the last 11 in regulation for the Bears. With the game tied at 60, Desmond Cambridge missed a deep two that would have given Brown the lead with two seconds left, and Terrance McBride’s half-court heave was short.

For the second straight home game, Cornell was in overtime.

After Cornell won the tip, each team got a stop, but Josh Warren hit a layup on the Big Red’s second possession to take a two-point lead. A McBride steal and a Boeheim layup took the lead to four, then Morgan hit an NBA-range three to make it a seven-point game.

Obi Okolie responded with two straight driving layups, with a missed three by Jack Gordon in between that seemed to go all the way down before going out. Maybe the Harlem Globetrotters messed up the rims since they were in town on Tuesday.

With 33 seconds left, McBride was driving to the hoop off an inbound and lost it, but Gordon fouled Mawanda-Kalema, and he hit both shots to trim Cornell’s lead to 67-66.

McBride made up for it quite quickly. Cornell beat the press and got it to Gordon, who swung it to McBride for an easy layup: 69-66 Big Red. Brown brought it up and called time but threw an errant inbound pass that was stolen by Julian and he got it to Morgan for two shots.

Morgan surprisingly missed both. Cambridge got the rebound still with a chance but Julian stole it again, and he was fouled with .2 seconds left. He hit one of the two shots, and Cornell escaped for their fifth Ivy win in seven tries this season.

Cornell keeps finding ways to win

Yet again, Cornell’s big three in Matt Morgan, Josh Warren and Jimmy Boeheim had a nice night. It’s showing to be very hard to contain all three, they just keep stepping up for one another. When Morgan struggled in the first half, Boeheim had a huge 13 points and Warren had six.

Boeheim finished with 21 points. He was limited in playing time toward the end as he crept his way into foul trouble and was swapped for offense and defense. Warren had 18 points and five rebounds, while Morgan stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, six rebounds, five assists, six turnovers, two steals and two blocks.

Cornell got Brown into deep foul trouble throughout the game. Mawanda-Kalema and Okolie had three at the half, and Choh had two. Mawanda-Kalema and Cambridge finished with four, Choh fouled out in the final seconds, and Okolie stayed at three. Cornell was shooting free throws pretty early into the first half, that being something that cut its deficit to four.

Cornell, however, did struggle again from the free throw line. They finished 13-for-24, and I guarantee you that Cornell would be undefeated in conference play if it enjoyed better free throw shooting. Forty-six percent free-throw shooter Steven Julian hit five of six free throws, and that was huge. Julian finished with six rebounds, five points, four steals, two assists and two blocks.

The Big Red’s turnovers are generally above average, but they continue to make their opponent turn it over more then them. Cornell committed 17 turnovers to Brown’s 20.

Cornell finished shooting 46 percent, which is mind-blowing especially after its 2-for-12 start in the first 10:22.

Brown’s numbers

Brown had a pretty balanced scoring load on the night. Okolie had 15 points, while Mawanda-Kalema had 14 off the bench. Choh posted a 13 point, 10-rebound double-double while Cambridge registered 10 points, six in the first half.

Brown dished just eight assists compared to 16 for Cornell and shot 42 percent on the night, held to just 38 points in the final 29 minutes of the game, including overtime.

A big one on Saturday

On Saturday, Cornell hosts league-leading Yale in the game of the night around the league. A win for Cornell will put them into a tie for first place, while showing they can contend for an Ivy League title. But first, the Big Red will have to get past Miye Oni, who notched 20 points and five blocks in a 70-64 win at Columbia.

Cornell needs to be prepared for Morgan to struggle early, as we assume Trey Phills will be on him. Phills is one of the league’s best defenders, along with Julian. We can also guess that Julian will have the task of guarding Oni, and those two matchups should be a lot of fun to watch.

The Big Red winning Saturday puts them in pretty solid shape for the Ivy League Tournament, and it would be a huge disappointment if they were to not make it at all if they get to 6-2.

Brown now travels down to Manhattan to face Columbia after the Lions’ loss to Yale. Both games are at 7 p.m. and on ESPN+.