Cornell men keep Ivy Madness hopes alive with victory over Columbia

ITHACA, N.Y. — Two things needed to happen for the Cornell men to make it to the Ivy League Tournament: beat Columbia and hope Brown loses to Yale.

Part one of that equation has been completed.

In wire-to-wire fashion, the Big Red defeated the Lions 87-73 at Newman Arena to keep their Ivy Madness hopes alive.

Cornell (17-10, 7-7 Ivy) had an early hot hand, jumping out to a 40-18 lead. Suddenly, Columbia (7-22, 2-12) struck back with a 16-0 run over a four-minute stretch to cut it to a six-point margin at the half.

Sophomore forward Chris Cain, who had played just 69 minutes this season before Saturday, gave the Big Red a spark off the bench. With junior guard Max Watson and sophomore forward Guy Ragland Jr. out with “day-to-day” injuries, Cain exploded for a career-high 11 points in the half. He splashed a pair of threes from the key and converted on a pair of layups.

“We spread the floor, and when you can shoot, it helps to keep it spread,” coach Brian Earl said of Cain. “It was good to see him go in, and he kept us at a pace we wanted.”

The Big Red hit the throttle out of the break and never looked back, opening on a 16-5 run and eventually regaining a lead of more than 20. Columbia chipped away in the closing minutes, but never got closer than 14.

Senior guard Greg Dolan had 17 points off 8-for-12 shooting in his final home game to pace Cornell. He added four rebounds and had three assists.

“When we’re kicking the ball around and playing as a unit on offense, it makes things easier for … everybody to knock down shots,” senior guard Greg Dolan said. “I thought we did a good job of that in the first 14, 15 minutes of the first half and the second half. They had a big run at the end of the first half that we really had to weather.

“Our energy and our pace are really stuff that pushes us and gets guys going. I think we’ve kind of lost our way with that a little bit the last few games, so it’s important for all of us to keep that in mind, offense and defense.”

Junior guard Chris Manon added 13 points for Cornell, including a perfect 5-for-5 night from the free-throw line. Junior guard Isaiah Gray and sophomore guard Nazir Williams each added nine in a night where the Big Red shot 54% from the field.

The offense took a step in the right direction after consecutive games with fewer than 60 points, the only times the Big Red failed to reach that mark this season.

“We played hard for the most part, sometimes we would lose sight of what we’re trying to do,” Earl said. “It may have hurt them with how fast we play.”

Freshman guard Avery Brown led Columbia with 16 points off 7-for-11 shooting. Junior forward Liam Murphy added 13, freshman guard Kenny Noland contributed 12 and sophomore guard Geronimo Rubio De La Rosa had 11. The Lions shot 48% and turned the ball over 16 times.

Now the Big Red wait.

Cornell’s fate lies in the hands of Yale. Should the Bulldogs defeat Brown for a share of the Ivy title, Cornell will head to Princeton to play Yale in the semifinals.

If Cornell loses, it’ll miss out on Ivy Madness after starting league play 5-2.

“It’ll definitely be nerve-racking knowing our career could be over,” senior forward Marcus Filien said. “Definitely going to watch the game nervously, but just hoping Yale pulls out a win so that we can continue our season.”

The players said they’ll watch the game. Earl said he may be too nervous to watch.

“Cheering for another Ivy team is never a thing you want to do,” Earl said. “I don’t know if I’ll watch it. Just get texts — or silence — when the outcome comes. It’s a tough way to determine if there is a tie, we go.”