Cornell men’s basketball sweeps weekend over Harvard and Dartmouth, looks toward Yale rematch

After its first Ivy League loss to Yale last weekend, Cornell men’s basketball wasn’t fazed.

Chip on their shoulders and all, the Big Red returned home and came up with a sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth for the second time in three weeks.

On Friday, Cornell led the Crimson by just three at the half before gaining second-half separation in a 75-62 victory. The Big Red had four double-digit scorers, led by 14 from junior Nazir Williams. Senior Chris Manon, sophomore Cooper Noard and freshman Jake Fiegan each scored 11.

Saturday’s game against Dartmouth took a little extra effort. Cornell trailed by as many as 13 (40-27) in the first half before mounting a 23-7 run to take a three-point lead after 20 minutes. The hosts outscored Dartmouth by six in the final frame, resulting in an 89-80 victory.

Manon notched a career-high 25 points off 9-for-16 shooting while Fiegan did the same with 14 points, going 6-for-9. Williams chipped in 14 more and sophomore AK Okereke scored 12.

Allowing 71 points in Ivy play, Cornell’s defense has seemingly taken a step forward. In years past, that’d be the Big Red’s weakness, and teams would beat the Big Red on fastbreaks for easy baskets. But it seems as if Cornell has found some sort of middle ground where it can both defend and still play at a torrid pace.

With five games remaining in the regular season, the Big Red have six players averaging eight or more points: Manon (12.7), Williams (11.1), senior Isaiah Gray (9.7), senior Sean Hansen (9.2), junior Guy Ragland Jr. (9.1) and Noard (8.5).

With Yale having lost its first Ivy game of the season to Princeton on Saturday, the Bulldogs are tied up with Cornell atop the league at 8-1. But since the Bulldogs knocked off the Big Red on their home floor, they own the tiebreaker. Princeton sits just behind at 7-2.

But a lot could change on Friday when Cornell hosts Yale. In what’s arguably the most important game of the season, the winner will have an inside edge toward the regular-season title and the top seed in Ivy Madness.

All three teams are surely deserving of the NCAA Tournament bid, but only one will get it.

Maybe Cornell will mix it up and bust out the dancing shoes for the first time since 2010.