Cornell blows eight-point lead with three minutes left to fall to first-place Yale in double overtime

Brian Earl has told me before that his Big Red squad has found every possible way to lose a game. Well, on Friday night at Newman Arena, they found yet another.

Cornell led for almost the entire ballgame and held a comfortable eight-point lead with just under three minutes to play in Ithaca. Eric Monroe drilled a three for the Bulldogs, and Jordan Bruner converted on a layup with just over two minutes in regulation, and then Azar Swain hit a tough three to tie things up with 61 seconds remaining.

The sides would then trade turnovers before a Terrance McBride halfcourt attempt to win the game fell short, sending the game to overtime.

With 1:35 left in the first overtime session, Yale’s Jalen Gabbidon hit a three to tie things up at 69 after Terrance McBride made a layup. Paul Atkinson went to the free-throw line shooting a 1-and-1 with four seconds left but missed it. Marcus Filien of the Big Red hauled in the board and dribbled it out to send it to a second overtime session.

The second five-minute session was again back-and-forth, but Yale took a 79-78 lead after an Azar Swain three with 1:11 left. McBride missed a jumper on the other end, but Jordan Bruner turned it over late in the shot clock to give the Big Red a shot with 21 seconds left.

Cornell took advantage of its opportunity as McBride slithered to the basket again for another layup, giving the Big Red another one-point lead.

But with two seconds left, August Mahoney cut to the hoop and finished in traffic to put the Bulldogs back up by one. McBride wasted no time catching the inbound pass, racing up the court, and chucking up a decent looking three that fell short. There may have been a little contact, but no foul was called, and that ended the game.

Final score: Yale 81, Cornell 80.

The most impressive part about the game for the Big Red: Jimmy Boeheim didn’t play. He injured himself last week against Dartmouth and was in street clothes and a boot on Friday. Josh Warren, arguably the team’s second-best player, was limited to just two points.

It was Terrance McBride who put the team on his back, scoring a career-high 27 points. 17 of his points came in two overtime sessions. Greg Dolan came off the bench with 14 points, and Bryan Knapp added 13.

This loss to Yale (19-6, 7-2 Ivy) likely puts the Big Red out of Ivy Madness contention, but it makes the future look quite bright. Seeing what the team can accomplish with Boeheim off the floor and Warren having an off night has to be a huge confidence booster. All the guys with significant impacts on Friday will be back next season, plus a healthy Jimmy Boeheim and transfer player Sarju Patel from VMI, who average more than 10 points points per game last season.

It’s frustrating now, but Cornell (5-17, 2-7) is building for a big 2020-21 season. Marcus Filien came off the bench with eight points and five big rebounds, and Dean Noll had just three points, but the three points snapped a 12-0 Yale run in the first half. All the little contributions add up.

The victors were led by Paul Atkinson, who scored 16 points. Jordan Bruner had an impressive triple-double, scoring 14 points, hauling in 11 boards, and dropping 10 dimes. Eric Monroe had 15 points and seven assists, while Azar Swain had 12 points off four threes.

And of course, you can’t forget about August Mahoney, who came off the bench with nine points and hit the game-winner.

Friday’s win was a huge one for the Bulldogs, as they regained sole possession of first place atop the Ivy League after a Princeton loss to Harvard. They will look for their eighth conference win of the season and 20th overall on Saturday when they take on Columbia.

For the Big Red, they can look forward to hosting the red hot Brown Bears. They are coming off a 72-66 win over the Lions and looking for their seventh win in eight tries. Cornell is looking to snap its four-game skid in its second of four consecutive home games.