An unlikely comeback generates more optimism for Cornell men

Trailing by 11 with under five minutes to go, a win seemed unlikely for the Cornell men against Delaware. But a 20-2 run to finish the game shocked the Blue Hens as the Big Red escaped with a 74-67 victory.

Cornell faced a Delaware squad just months removed from an NCAA Tournament appearance, and the team returned many key pieces. It’s a significant victory against a quality mid-major opponent.

Frankly, Cornell probably didn’t deserve to win that game. Delaware pushed a 10-0 run in the ensuing minutes before Cornell’s dramatic comeback. But it’s a telling victory.

Everyone on the team knows their role, whether they start or play just a few minutes off the bench. It’s a brand of unselfish, high-paced basketball. And with how deep and well-rounded the Big Red are, they have the build of a team that could have a special season.

The offense has been somewhat by committee, but Greg Dolan is leading with 13.4 points off a cool 57% shooting clip. Oh yeah, he’s shooting 59% from downtown and hit a game-sealing dagger in the closing seconds Wednesday.

Nazir Williams is scoring 10.7 points and Keller Boothby is scoring 9.9 points a contest. Sean Hansen has had his moments offensively, and Chris Manon has provided a great spark off the bench after starting for most of last season. Earl has created a rotation of 10 guys, and eight of them have the potential to score in double figures on command.

And mental toughness of this team seems much higher than Cornell teams of the past. The Big Red wouldn’t always have been able to come back after allowing a late run like it gave up to Delaware.

With six victories in a row after losing to Boston College at the buzzer, the Big Red are humming. They return home for a match-up with Lafayette — a game that should be very winnable. At No. 293 in KenPom’s rankings, the Leopards are 1-7 and have only beaten Central Connecticut State under first-year coach Mike Jordan.

Cornell has gotten better at taking care of business when it needs to. The Big Red have won crucial Ivy League games to put themselves in a position to make the tournament. They beat teams that are inferior in nonconference play, and they make games out of power-conference opponents.

Following Lafayette, games loom against Miami and Syracuse, and both have genuine intrigue. Cornell will face old friend Bill Courtney, who is the associate head coach at Miami. The Hurricanes have looked good, and at 7-1, have shown promise in the ACC after an Elite 8 berth.

Syracuse looks very beatable this year. Colgate and Bryant took care of business early in the year, and with Cornell’s offensive prowess, the Big Red should have a chance.

If Colgate can beat Syracuse, why can’t Cornell?

An interesting yet revealing few games lie ahead for the Big Red.


2 thoughts on “An unlikely comeback generates more optimism for Cornell men”

  1. Nice analysis, Nathan. Looks like Brian Earl has the Big Red picking up successfully from where they left off last season. Here’s hoping they score the first Ivy League take down of a Power Five opponent this season.

  2. Another great late comeback against Lafayette on Sunday. It’s a lot of fun to watch these guys play.

    I can’t believe a higher-level team hasn’t hired Brian Earl (and Megan Griffith at Columbia, for that matter). I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last year in the Ivy League for both of those coaches.

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