Cornell men explode in second half to notch comeback victory over Yale

Brian Earl addresses the media after he was hired by longtime athletic director Andy Noel as Cornell men’s basketball coach in April 2016. Nearly seven years later, Earl has rejuvenated the program, with his team delivering a dramatic win over Yale Friday on Noel’s last day on the job before retiring. (Cornell University)

ITHACA, N.Y. — With 12:06 remaining, the Cornell men faced a 68-53 deficit to Yale and seemingly had no answers on the defensive end. The Bulldogs were shooting nearly 69% from the field and were dominating the interior.

But all of a sudden, something clicked for the Big Red. Cornell finished the game on a 41-14 mega-run to defeat the defending league champions 94-82 and move into solo second in the Ivy League.

“We don’t necessarily care being down a lot,” Cornell coach Brian Earl said. “Yale’s a great team. They scored on us a lot, but the waves of us coming and never stopping I felt was good. Our guys hung in there.”

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Ivy Madness reporter’s notebook: Day 3

Princeton women’s basketball’s post-Ivy League Tournament final press conference was one of several revealing pressers during Ivy Madness. (photo by Rob Browne)


“This is the business we’ve chosen.” – Brian Earl and Hyman Roth

“We played for, I would say, a good 15 minutes tonight, but that’s not good enough against a good program.” – Columbia head coach Megan Griffith, following the Lions defeat to top-seeded Princeton

No matter what the coaches who did not earn victories on Saturday thought, I felt there were three really good games of college basketball on display at Lavietes Pavilion, including a fantastic opener that saw Princeton escape an upset big from Cornell, 77-73.  Hopefully, West Coast fans woke up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning to catch it.

Here are some random thoughts and observations from the Ancient Eight’s Super Saturday:

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Theresa Grace Mbanefo fights for racial equality at Cornell

Theresa Grace Mbanefo is a rising Cornell women’s basketball junior. (Cornell Athletics)

As the country continues to grapple with a deadly pandemic and a growing protest movement against police brutality and centuries-old racial inequalities, Cornell women’s basketball rising junior Theresa Grace Mbanefo and her organization, Women of Color Cornell Athletics (WOCCA) are looking to make structural changes on the East Hill of Ithaca.

On June 1, WOCCA initiated the “Hear Us Now” photo campaign to “demand informed allyship from the Cornell athletic community and beyond.”

The posts of the various female and male student-athletes of color show each holding up a sign describing times when they heard the crowds cheering for them.  The last shows all of the athletes holding posters with “But do you see us? #BLM”.

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Cornell hires Princeton assistant Brian Earl to be Big Red’s next head coach

Brian Earl takes over as the 22nd head coach in Cornell men’s basketball history. (

Cornell Athletics announced Monday that it has hired Princeton assistant coach Brian Earl to be its next head coach, replacing Bill Courtney, who was fired last month, in the position.

Earl became associate head coach in 2015 and had been an assistant under two head coaches for the past nine seasons at Princeton, which he graduated from in 1999. According to Princeton Athletics, Earl’s Ivy League peers voted him as the league’s top assistant coach in a November 2010 poll, and Earl served another five years as assistant under Mitch Henderson, who was promoted to head coach following Princeton’s 2010-11 Ivy League Championship under then-head coach Sydney Johnson.

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Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett dies at 52

Elizabeth Garrett officially assumed duties as Cornell President on July 1, 2015, becoming the first woman to hold the office in university history. (Cornell Chronicle)
Elizabeth Garrett officially assumed duties as Cornell President on July 1, 2015, becoming the first woman to hold the office in university history. (Cornell Chronicle)

While most of the Ivy League news this week has centered on the triumph and controversy associated with the Yale basketball team, Cornell University has unexpectedly entered the front pages due to the death of its President, Elizabeth Garrett, according to multiple sources.  Ms. Garrett, 52, died on Sunday night at her home in New York City due to colon cancer.

Ms. Garrett was the thirteenth President in Cornell’s history, and its first female leader.  She was elected President in September 2014 and was inaugurated on Sept. 18, 2015.  Prior to her time at Cornell, she was the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Southern California.

President Garrett did her undergraduate studies at the University of Oklahoma, and earned her law degree from the University of Virginia. Afterwards, she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.  She was a legislative director for Sen. David Boren (D-OK), a member of President George W. Bush’s Advisory Panel for Federal Tax Reform, and a professor of law at the University of Chicago.

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The beginning of the end for Cornell

In the midst of a six game losing streak, Cornell headed to Penn and Princeton for its final road trip of the season.  The Big Red were hoping to get back in the win column, surprise a top-tier team and escape the league basement.  Unfortunately, the team finished the weekend with two losses, an eight-game losing streak and sole possession of last place.

Most of the information about this past weekend was covered well by Mike Tony in his Friday roundupSaturday recap and Ivy Power Rankings.

Just to add a small amount to those items:

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The issue of identity in Ithaca

Early in last Saturday’s broadcast of the Penn-Cornell game, Big Red announcers Barry Leonard and Eric Taylor recounted a recent conversation with coach Bill Courtney in which the coach was unsure of the identity of his team. After 22 games and in the throes of a four-game losing streak, what does this mean for the program going forward?

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Cornell all-time moment No. 10: Hiring Steve Donahue as head coach


Pictured above (from left to right): Former Cornell head coach Steve Donahue, former Cornell president Hunter Rawlings, and athletic director Andy Noel
Pictured above (from left to right): Former Cornell head coach Steve Donahue, former Cornell president Hunter Rawlings, and athletic director Andy Noel

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Cornell is next because, well, it’s the last school left. (But not least!)

It won’t be a surprise to anyone that a good portion of the top 10 moments in Cornell basketball history will be dedicated to the three-year run from 2008 through 2010 that culminated in its first ever Sweet Sixteen berth. A lot had to happen and even more had to go right for a school with no discernable basketball pedigree to overtake the highest stage in the conference, and at times the nation. The stone that started the ripple effect was bringing the architect of the transformation to Ithaca, New York.

It was the fall of 2000 and the Cornell men’s basketball team was beginning the new century moving in the wrong direction. It had been 11 seasons since its last conference title in 1988, and the program had only finished with a winning record twice. The path toward relevance again took a detour when after four seasons and a 45-60 record, head coach Scott Thompson was forced to resign to focus on his battle with colon cancer. Whoever would take his place would inherit a team that after being picked to finished third in the league managed only a 3-11 conference record, good for dead last.

That man was 38-year-old Steve Donahue, who was officially hired on Sept. 6, 2000. It would have been a nice Cinderella story if Coach D, with a fresh motion offense, a few of his patented whistles, and some elbow grease took this group from worst to first immediately, but we all know it didn’t go down that way.

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