Cornell men notch victory over St. Francis (Pa.) as the Big Red offense keeps moving

ITHACA, N.Y. — Freshman guard Nazir Williams scored 21 points off efficient 7-for-10 shooting to pace Cornell on Wednesday as the Big Red took down Saint Francis (Pa.), 93-80.

Cornell (5-1) fell behind 4-2 in the opening minutes, but a 9-0 run put the hosts ahead 11-4 over Saint Francis (1-3).

The Big Red would never trail again.

Coach Brian Earl’s squad slowly extended its lead and took a 47-32 lead into the locker room at halftime powered by 10 three-pointers, three from sophomore forward Keller Boothby. The Plano, Texas native finished the game with 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field.

“He knows that he’s got the green light,” coach Brian Earl said. “It’s always good, not only that he gives you some points, but also that other things are open because of him out there.

“It makes things a lot easier when the ball goes in. We’ve had a lot of experience when it doesn’t, so it’s good to be home and see those shots go in.”

Cornell led by as many as 21 points in the second half, but the Red Flash cut the lead down to 10 with 11 minutes to play behind 19 points from sophomore guard Ronell Giles Jr. However, the visitors couldn’t draw any closer, as Big Red held on to win by 13.

“[In] the second half, it feels like we just got stuck in mud,” Earl said. “We fouled a lot early, so the pace slowed down and that was a little frustrating.”

Although the pace slowed for the Big Red, Williams kept the offense moving. Sixteen of his 21 points came in the second half, as his scoring helped contribute to Cornell having the quickest offensive pace in the country at 13.5 seconds per possession.

“It was a good night. I feel like my teammates just found me,” Williams, the Nyack, N.Y. native said. “Just the way our offense is set up, we’re always pushing the ball, and if I have the ball and I’m pushing, I’m just always trying to get to the basket.”

Upperclassmen Sarju Patel and Jordan Jones each scored 11 points, with Patel hitting the first two three-pointers of the game. Forwards Kobe Dickson and Guy Ragland, Jr. each added six points, as well. Earl played 15 players in the game, 11 of whom scored.

For Saint Francis, redshirt sophomore forward Josh Cohen and senior forward Marlon Hargis scored 18 and 17 points, respectively, to complement Giles.

“I thought our guys really worked hard for long possessions, but in the end, sometimes those guys ended those possessions with scores,” Earl said. “We’re a work in progress, and defensively, we need to sort of pick up the efficiency a little bit.”

Cornell shot 54% from the field as a team and 46% from deep off 16 makes, good for third in program history for three-point field goals made in a single game.

Saint Francis shot 40% from the field and just 29% from deep but connected on 19 of 24 free throws. The Big Red made just 11 of 18 free throws, but won the rebound battle, 39-37.

Next up, Cornell travels to Buffalo for a matchup with Canisius on Monday. The Golden Griffins, just 2-4 on the season, are fresh off a victory on Wednesday over Coppin State, a team Cornell faces in December.

“They are a tough team,” Earl said. “They’ll probably try and do some of the same things that Saint Francis did to us tonight.”

The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. EST start, televised on ESPN3.