Just one Ivy League men’s basketball team remains undefeated through a week of action, and it isn’t either conference favorite in Harvard or Yale. Instead, it’s the Cornell Big Red, searching for their first 3-0 start in 25 seasons on Tuesday against Colgate at Newman Arena.
Cornell doesn’t have the star power its opponents have, but the team has shown its depth through season-opening wins at Binghamton and Lafayette. The team has also shown resiliency, coming up with big stops and timely shot-making in 76-69 and 90-85 victories over the Bearcats and Leopards, respectively.
Jordan Jones is the shooter Cornell needs
When Matt Morgan graduated in 2019, Cornell never really had a shooter to regularly cash in from beyond the three-point arc. But junior forward Jordan Jones may be that guy Cornell needs to space the floor and snipe from downtown.
Jones was a freshman in 2019-20, but an injury in January sidelined the Thousands Oaks, Calif. native for the rest of the season. Jones had shown some potential, even scoring 15 points off the bench in a loss to Syracuse. He just wasn’t consistent enough to make a serious impact on the team.
Jones spent the last 20 months paying against higher competition to better himself, and so far, it’s paying off.
This is his team. As one of the most experienced players on the roster, he’s gotten plenty of touches and looks from deep. Through two games, Jones is 6-for-15 from downtown and averaging 19.5 points. He’s one of the leading scoring options, and if he stays healthy, he’ll remain a major threat across the league.
Chris Manon: a pleasant surprise
Outside of Jones, senior Kobe Dickson and transfer Sarju Patel, Cornell didn’t know much about its roster. With 10 newcomers, Big Red would have to balance a rotation of both experienced returners and collegiate rookies with raw talent.
One of those newcomers, Chris Manon, has impressed in two starts. Manon posted 17 points in his NCAA debut against Binghamton last Tuesday and followed with 19 against Lafayette. He’s 3-for-6 from downtown and shooting nearly 46% from the field overall.
At 6’5″, Manon gives Cornell a bit more size and versatility on both ends of the ball. Big Red brings in one of their biggest rosters in recent history, including 6’9″ Dickson and 6’9″ freshman Ryan Kiachian, and more size is a good thing for a team known to often get outrebounded.
Cornell’s bench has been massive as 13 players have seen the floor in each game. So far, it’s working as everyone playing is contributing on both ends.
Joining Jones, Manon and Dickson in the starting lineup has been Patel and junior Greg Dolan. Patel transferred to Cornell from VMI after the 2018-19 season and sat out a season under NCAA guidelines before COVID-19 concerns canceled the following season. He’s averaging 8.5 points through two games and also sunk the game-sealing three-pointer against Lafayette on Friday. Dolan has scored 9.5 points a game and played solid defense to lead the team from the “one.”
Eight other guys have substituted into each game, but newcomers Keller Boothby, Nazir Williams, and Isaiah Gray, along with senior Dean Noll have seen the most reserve minutes.
Boothby is a three-point microwave, shooting 4-for-9 from deep in two games. Williams is an efficient 3-for-3 from the floor and a good defender, while Gray has also contributed on both ends. Noll, a historically inefficient player, is an early 4-for-9 from the field but has done a solid job of running the offense with the reserves.
Sean Hansen, Evan Williams, Marcus Filien and Max Samberg have all contributed off the bench as well.
Looming for Cornell are tests against power-five foes Penn State, Virginia Tech and Syracuse to see what its true talent level is. But so far, it’s all smiles in Ithaca for the Big Red.
Tuesday’s home opener versus Colgate tips at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+.