Cornell sweeps Harvard, eliminated from Ivy Madness but still has a lot to play for

The Cornell Big Red defense came out with a plan to slow down Harvard’s junior guard Bryce Aiken, and was very successful in doing so. Aiken had 17 points but shot a poor 4-for-18 from the field. Cornell’s Matt Morgan put on a show in one of his last home games, dropping 31 points with five threes, leading Cornell to a 72-59 win over the Crimson.

This season was the first time in nine years that the Big Red swept Harvard, dating back to the magical Sweet 16 run of 2009-10. Unfortunately, Cornell didn’t get the help it needed from Princeton and Yale Friday, and the Big Red were eliminated from the Ivy League Tournament. But, they still have a lot to play for on Saturday against Dartmouth.

Live and die by Matt Morgan

Morgan shouldered the scoring load again for the Big Red. The hero of Cornell’s last win over Harvard, Terrance McBride, came off the bench and gave the Big Red nine points. Josh Warren and Steven Julian had eight points each, Julian also hauling in 14 rebounds, forcing three steals, and blocking Chris Lewis on a dunk attempt.

But the Big Red can’t expect to win games living on Matt Morgan. Jimmy Boeheim has been very quiet over the last five games, and Warren has been quiet in the last five excluding last weekend’s blowout loss at Yale. This season, Morgan has had to work extra hard for his points, the most he has had to in his career since conference teams have learned how to play him. In games he went quiet, he didn’t have much backup, although Riley Voss hit a few shots down the stretch at Princeton.

Morgan had five of Cornell’s eight threes, and nine of the teams 22 field goals made.

However, the live and die by Matt Morgan theory could work if the Big Red get some postseason action. More on that later.

The Big Red totally outplayed Harvard

Despite relying on Matt Morgan, Cornell played maybe their most complete game of the year.

Most of the game was back and forth, but Cornell pulled away with about 4:42 left after a Terrance McBride three-pointer. The teams were tied at 29 at the half.

Cornell kept Bryce Aiken in check. Aiken had just five first-half points, off of two free-throws and a three-pointer with a few minutes left in the half. Aiken sort of found a groove in the second half, totaling 17 points in 18 shot attempts, but only hitting four of those shots. The rest came from a 7-for-10 performance from the charity stripe.

Cornell limited Harvard to just 29 percent from the field, while the Big Red shot 42 percent. Cornell compiled eight threes compared to Harvard’s nine, but shot the ball better from deep (33 percent) than Harvard (29 percent).

Harvard also had three more turnovers than Cornell (16-13) and more fouls (22-13).

Cornell didn’t win the rebound battle, but they only trailed by three in the rebound margin in thanks to Steven Julian’s 14 rebounds. Cornell also had 10 offensive rebounds, the first time they had that all season.

A lot still to play for

With a Penn win over Yale and a Brown win over Princeton, the Big Red are officially eliminated from Ivy Madness. That’s very disappointing, especially after their 5-2 record at the halfway mark of conference play. It looked like the Big Red had something special going there for a while, and perhaps the team would still be contending for an Ivy championship if Stone Gettings hadn’t transferred.

However, not making the Ivy League Tournament may not end their season on Saturday. A win over Dartmouth on gives the Big Red a .500 record on the season, enough to qualify them for postseason action. That would also be their first .500 season since the Sweet 16 team, and the Big Red want to send Matt Morgan and the other seniors out strong.

If Cornell found itself playing in the postseason, it would be in the CIT.

The CIT is a tournament that doesn’t have a set number of teams each year, but is in the mid-20s-to-low-30s range each season. This tournament is for mid-majors only, with power conferences and other bigger conferences like the A10 aren’t allowed to have teams entered in this tournament. We have seen Ivy League teams in this before, Columbia winning the tournament in 2016 and Yale losing in the finals in 2014.

If the tournament uses a larger field of teams, Cornell may have a shot to get in. The downside is, you reportedly have to pay almost $40,000 dollars to host a home game. If Cornell gets invited into it, they should 100 percent accept the invite. It will give Morgan some more time to ball out, and try to go for the all-time scoring record. His 31 points against Harvard surpasses 2,300 career points and he would need just over 200 more points for the record. Unlikely, but not impossible.

Defenses also wouldn’t have any experience against Morgan, and he statistically scores incredibly well against teams he hasn’t played before.

Plus, Cornell would have more time to try things that could possibly work once Morgan is gone and develop its young players and JUCO transfers. A tremendous opportunity still awaits for the Big Red if they win Saturday and are invited into postseason action.