Cornell men’s basketball 2018-19 season recap

With Stone Gettings transferring from Cornell, expectations went from a possible contender to a team that may not even get 10 wins. But despite not getting into the Ivy League Tournament, the Big Red had a pretty solid season and they far surpassed their expectations. Matt Morgan was still Matt Morgan, but forwards Jimmy Boeheim and Josh Warren stepped it up and each had big roles as secondary scorers while seniors Steven Julian and Joel Davis anchored the defense. The team played some great games, including almost-upsets over Yale and Syracuse and a sweep of Harvard.

A lot of Cornell’s problem throughout the season was poor rebounding. The Big Red could hold teams to 35-45 percent from the field most nights, yet still lose. For context, they were 352nd out of 353 Division I teams in offensive rebound percentage.

Inconsistent play early on

After a closed scrimmage at Queens University in Canada and a exhibition at home against cross-city rival Ithaca College, the Big Red went on the road down I-81 to Binghamton to open the season. The game was back and forth, but Cornell began to pull away in the final minutes and secured an 86-75 win in part from Matt Morgan’s the career-high 38 points. Jimmy Boeheim also added 20 points, a career high at that point as well. This was also the first game back from Troy Whiteside, who missed his junior year from an injury. Despite seven points in this game, he struggled later on in the season and was a nonfactor in conference play.

Just two nights later, Cornell was at Newman Arena for their home opener against Division I SUNY Canton. Canton played this game as an exhibition, while Cornell played it as a regular season game and won 86-44 thanks to 22 points in 21 minutes from Matt Morgan, and 11 points off of the bench from Jake Kuhn.

A few days later, Cornell hosted their first Dl team of the season, the Patriot League Champion Colgate Raiders. “Toothpaste” held Cornell to just 57 points with Matt Morgan only scoring 12 as the Raiders beat the Big Red, 73-57. This was the first time the Big Red had to play with Matt Morgan having an off night without Stone Gettings. Last season, Gettings would just handle the offense if Morgan was cold or just not getting looks. But nobody could make shots, Cornell shooting just 39 percent.

A few nights later, Cornell hosted the Delaware Blue Hens. In an empty arena because of a snow storm, it looked like Delaware was playing 5-on-2 because Matt Morgan and Jimmy Boeheim combined for 44 of Cornell’s 56 points. That was the most embarrassing game of the season and Delaware left with a 73-56 win. Boeheim had 23 points and Morgan had 21.

After the two rough games, Cornell traveled down to Newark, New Jersey to take on the 4-0 NJIT Highlanders. Cornell took the lead with 15:56 left in the first half and led the rest of the way en route to an 86-73 win. Matt Morgan led with 34 points, while Jimmy Boeheim added 15 and Jack Gordon added 10. This was one of those examples of early inconsistencies.

Afterwards, Cornell went up to Harford, Conn. to take on UConn in their first buy game of the season. Despite losing 91-74, Cornell played quite well and if it wasn’t for a late first-half run by the Huskies, it could have gone down to the wire. Matt Morgan put on a show, leading all scorers with 26 points on 11-for-15 shooting, making a series of contested shots throughout the game.

After a week long break for Thanksgiving, Cornell beat Lafayette in overtime in an ugly game, winning 63-58. Matt Morgan only had 12, getting his last four points in the last minute of overtime. Alex Petrie hit a long three, and I mean a long three, with a few seconds left to send it to overtime. Josh Warren had a strong 17 points in his first solid performance of the season.

Then, the Big Red went up to Syracuse for the long awaited “Battle of the Boeheims.” The Big Red overcame a 15-point second-half deficit thanks to 26 points from Matt Morgan on a series of tough jumpers in second half, wowing the 21,000 fans in the largest college basketball venue in the country. Though they faded late and lost by eight, Matt Morgan gained a lot of fans and gave the team some publicity. Against the tallest team in the nation, Cornell was only outrebounded by one. Jimmy Boeheim had nine for Cornell and Buddy Boeheim had three for Syracuse.

After a two-week exam break, the Big Red returned for their toughest stretch of the season, playing four games in seven days, and three in four days. They started on the border in Niagara, N.Y. to take on Niagara and lost by three thanks to a last second fadeaway three from Purple Eagles guard Keleaf Tate. Matt Morgan led the team with 22, and Josh Warren was right behind with 20. The positive: they won the rebounding battle by one. Progress? We’ll see. A negative was that somewhere in between the Syracuse game and the Niagara game, Cornell lost Jack Gordon to an undisclosed wrist/hand injury. He would miss nine games and return for the second conference game.

One night later, Cornell headed home to Newman Arena to take on the Longwood Lancers, and the Big Red got back on track with a 70-64 win. Matt Morgan had 17 points on five threes and Jimmy Boeheim had 12 points on four threes, including a huge three down the stretch that ended a Cornell scoring drought. The Big Red were up 14 but a late run cut the lead down to four before the Boeheim three. The Big Red led by 10 at the half and they trailed by two in the rebound margin.

The Big Red then traveled and played Toledo for the second half of a home-and-home started last season. Cornell held off a late rally at home last year for a win, but Cornell couldn’t do the same this season. Despite starting on a 19-8 run, Toledo came back quickly and they controlled the rest of the game, winning by 16. Matt Morgan led Cornell with 24 points with 10-for-10 free-throw shooting. Cornell was destroyed on the boards, doubled 44-22. After three strong rebounding games, it all seemed to fall apart against the big, strong Rockets.

Just days later, Cornell flew down to Dallas to take on SMU. It didn’t end well, Cornell losing by its worst margin of the season, 81-53. Matt Morgan led all scorers with 23 points and didn’t get much help. Jake Kuhn had 11 and Josh Warren had 10, but outside the three there were just nine points more.

But just a week later, Cornell came right out after Christmas with their best defense of the season, giving up just 50 points in a 61-50 win. Cornell trailed by three at the half with Matt Morgan scoring just two points. But come the second half, he dropped 25 and Cornell won 61-50. Cornell held the Midshipmen to just 29 percent shooting and the Big Red won the rebounding battle by two.

In the first game of 2019, Cornell traveled down to Winston-Salem, N.C. to take on Wake Forest in the homecoming for Matt Morgan and Joel Davis. However, Cornell couldn’t string together enough stops and lost, 83-61, despite 22 points from Matt Morgan. Wake Forest showed their ACC power and outrebounded Cornell, 50-25, their size was just too much for the Big Red.

Afterwards, the Big Red went back home to take on the Dlll Johnson & Wales and won ,76-61, a little too close for comfort. The starters only played about half the game, and maybe coach Brian Earl threw in the towel a bit too early.

A few days later, Cornell traveled down to Maryland to take on Towson for its final nonconference game of the season and got a big 86-74 win thanks to 38 points from Matt Morgan en route to becoming the 573rd player in college basketball history to score 2,000 career points. He hit a school record nine threes and became the SECU Arena scoring leader. Josh Warren added 18, Jimmy Boeheim added 14 and Steven Julian had 11 rebounds.

The Big Red finished 8-8 in non conference play and 8-4 against mid-majors, despite being outrebounded in most games.

Hot start in Ivy play

The Big Red started conference play on the right note, winning five of their first seven with one loss being in overtime and the other by three points. Cornell was getting contributions from all-around, not just Matt Morgan, Jimmy Boeheim, and Josh Warren. Guys like Terrance McBride, Jack Gordon, and Joel Davis stepped up on offense while Davis and Steven Julian continued to anchor the defense.

Cornell opened up at home against a struggling Columbia team, and the Big Red opened up on a 14-0 run and led 39-25 at the half. During that run, Matt Morgan hit consecutive threes and surpassed Ryan Wittman as the Cornell all-time leading scorer. However, Columbia stormed back and took a lead with 2:31 left during a Cornell dry spell. Then Jimmy Boeheim hit a tough stepback three with just over two minutes left and Cornell held on winning, 60-59, after Gabe Stefanini missed a free throw with three ticks left. Morgan had 21 points, but 19 of them came in the second half.

A week later in New York, the type of game was quite similar, but with Columbia leading and holding on. Columbia led by as much as 11 points with 8:18 left, but Cornell came back and made it close and Riley Voss shot a deep three to send it to overtime that rolled around and then went out. Cornell lost 73-70, with Jimmy Boeheim scoring 22 and Matt Morgan scoring 21.

Six days later, Cornell headed home for the first back-to-back of conference play, hosting Penn, then Princeton. The Big Red hosted Penn on Friday afternoon for a 5 p.m. tip on ESPNU. After a quiet first half, Cornell went on a run in the second half and held on late to beat the defending Ivy League Champions, 80-71. Matt Morgan had 27 points, including a tough game-sealing layup. Josh Warren added 19 points while Jimmy Boeheim and Terrance McBride each had 11. This was a big breakout game for Terrance McBride who had been struggling on offense, and he continued better play after that game.

A night later, Cornell took on Princeton and fell in overtime by a score of 80-71. Matt Morgan and Josh Warren each had 16 points, and Steven Julian had a season-high 12 points. The two problems: Cornell shot just 60 percent from the free-throw line, and Jimmy Boeheim had just two points on 1-for-9 shooting. But don’t worry, this loss didn’t kill the momentum.

Cornell came right back out and held off Dartmouth on the road, 83-80, behind a career-high 41 points from Matt Morgan while shooting an incredible 9-for-11 from three. It was a lot of fun to watch, and Matt Morgan can compete with anyone when he’s making threes like that. Don’t forget about Josh Warren either, he added 15 points in the effort that improved Cornell to 3-2 in conference play. Also, Matt Morgan’s 41 points were good enough to move him to second in conference history in scoring.

Just one night later, Cornell did something that just two other teams did this season, and that was beating Harvard at Laviettes Pavilion. This was the night after Harvard went to triple overtime against Columbia, and were extremely banged up and playing without Justin Bassey. Cornell trailed by as many as 15 in the second half, but slowly worked their way back in a very balanced offense. Boeheim had 16, Morgan with 15, and Warren with 14. Terrance McBride was the hero in the game, hitting the game sealing three and free-throws.

Afterwards, Cornell came right back home for another win, this time against a gritty Brown team in overtime. Brown guard Obi Okolie did a great job on Morgan, only allowing him to 15 points but Josh Warren and Jimmy Boeheim stepped up again with 21 and 18 points respectively. Cornell’s defense was fantastic in the final few minutes and in overtime, stopping Desmond Cambridge at the buzzer and allowing just six points in the extra session.

With both teams playing really well and first place on the line, Yale vs. Cornell was a very anticipated game. In front of an almost sold-out Newman Arena for the first time in years, Cornell couldn’t get enough rebounds and piece together enough stops as they fell to Yale, 98-92. Cornell started off strong scoring the first eight points of the game, forcing James Jones to call a timeout, but the Bulldogs got right back into it. It was a three-man show for the Big Red, Matt Morgan scored 35 points, Jimmy Boeheim scored 24, and Jack Gordon came off the bench with 15.

Through eight conference games, Cornell sat at 5-3 with two road trips coming up.

Sliding down the stretch

If you follow Ivy League basketball, you may know that Cornell’s two weekend road trips didn’t go well. At all.

Cornell went to Princeton and Matt Morgan was shut down by Myles Stephens and company, and the Big Red trailed most of the game. But down 13, an unlikely figure in Riley Voss stepped up and willed Cornell back into the game, getting it down to two points but Cornell went cold in the end and lost by nine. This was the first time that Devin Cannady wasn’t playing for good, and Princeton was also without Sebastian “Too Much” Much. (Thanks, Bill Walton.)

Cornell went to the Palestra a night later, and got rolled by Penn. Matt Morgan had 21 for Cornell, but the next closest had six. The really disappointing part was that Cornell held a two-point halftime lead, but scored just 18 points in the second half. Jimmy Boeheim and Josh Warren had really poor weekends, hurting the Big Red a lot. Cornell was still in the four spot for Ivy Madness, but it didn’t last long.

This game was ugly. Cornell traveled to New Haven and got annihilated by the Bulldogs, with Miye Oni dropping 25 in the first half against the team he wanted to play for in high school. Josh Warren had 15 points to go along with 11 from Morgan, and Cornell never led.

The winner of Cornell vs. Brown would likely decide who went to Ivy Madness, but neither would end up going. If Cornell won that game, it would have returned to Ivy Madness for a second year. But it doesn’t matter because they lost by 24 points. Morgan had 14 points and Joel Davis added 11, but the Big Red shot just 31 percent. The Big Red were also outrebounded by seven to a smaller team than them.

Came up just short

Cornell needed to sweep the final weekend of the season against Harvard and Dartmouth as well as get some help to Ivy Madness. They got the sweep part, but Brown beat Princeton on the road, and Penn blew out Yale to eliminate Cornell and set up a win and get in game for Brown and Penn on Saturday.

Cornell took the second game of the season against Harvard to sweep the season series behind 31 points from Matt Morgan, while holding Harvard stud Bryce Aiken to 4-for-18 shooting. No other Cornellian had more than nine points in the 72-59 rout of the Crimson, and held the Ivy League Co-Champs to 29 percent shooting.

Cornell got off to a slow start against Dartmouth, trailing by one at the half, but controlled the second half by winning 66-51 on senior night. Jimmy Boeheim got back on track with 21 points on 9-for-10 shooting, but two things were more significant. One, Cornell finished at 15-15 (.500) making them postseason eligible, and two, Matt Morgan snapped his 80-game streak of consecutive games in double-figure scoring, good for 12th in the history of College Basketball. Joel Davis had a nice senior night, scoring 11 points.

One last chance

It was announced on Selection Sunday that Cornell had accepted a CIT bid and will play at Robert Morris in the first round. Cornell lost 98-89 in OT and blew a double-digit second-half lead. Jimmy Boeheim had 31 points in his final game before he is considered Cornell’s star, and Matt Morgan scored 24 points to finish with 2,333 career points, in the estimated top 200 in college basketball history. Matt Morgan hit a clutch floater late for his final career points.

Cornell didn’t get past the first round of the CIT, but it was a good learning experience and a good way for the seniors to go out strong.

Looking to next season

It will be tough getting ready for next season as Cornell will be missing the offense of Matt Morgan and Jack Gordon, while missing the defense of Joel Davis and Steven Julian.

Jimmy Boeheim and Josh Warren will lead the team next year before Warren graduates, and have four announced recruits for next year: guards C.J. Jackson, Greg Dolan, Jordan Jones, and forward Marcus Filien.

The Big Red are expected to have Matthew Harshany who missed his entire freshman season to an injury. Harshany is a high-level scorer who received some high level interest while in high school.

Jordan Jones is also a high level shooter who has a bit of size at 6’5 as well as CJ Jackson at 6’6. Greg Dolan is a point guard who is a solid all-around player, and Filien is also pretty solid all-around, but will be down low.

Josh Warren will need to step up on defense and get more rebounds, and a lot more will be expected out of Riley Voss in all categories.

Warren and Boeheim will also need to be more consistent on the offensive end. The Boeheim we saw on senior night and in the CIT is the Boeheim we are hoping for next year.

Terrance McBride will also be a huge part of the team next year, one of the more underrated offensive players in the league. The can drive and finish, or kick if necessary. He also has a solid jump-shot and will provide three-point shooting.

Overall, Cornell had a good season and will continue to improve over the years. Brian Earl is the man and has seen his win total increase in each of his three seasons in Ithaca.