Cornell men overcome early deficit to defeat Monmouth, notch fifth straight win

Eleven minutes into Friday’s post-Thanksgiving matinee, the Cornell men faced an 18-9 deficit to Monmouth — essentially the first time they trailed since opening night against Boston College.

But over the next 22 minutes, the Big Red hauled a 39-point swing, leading by as many as 30 and defeating the Hawks, 81-63.

Cornell (5-1) found many open looks in the opening minutes but failed to knock shots down. The Big Red were stuck on eight points for well over six minutes when a Greg Dolan three-pointer finally broke the drought after Nazir Williams split free throws.

From that point on, three-pointers rained down. Cornell connected on 14 throughout the afternoon and relied on the long ball to a 39-27 lead at the half. The Big Red opened the second half on a 9-2 run and continued to pull away, finally peaking at a 71-41 lead with 7:54 remaining.

Coach Brian Earl started to sub his starters and role players out for bench players, and Monmouth (0-6) cut the lead down to 18 in the final minutes.

Cornell, once again, played to its strengths — unselfish basketball. The team shot 52% from the field and 11 different players scored points. Keller Boothby led the way with 12 points off four three-pointers and Chris Manon, one of the team’s best pure scorers, scored 12 off the bench. Nazir Williams scored 11 points and Max Watson scored 10.

Five in a row

After losing to Boston College, Cornell has won straight games. Granted, two were against Division lll schools, but it still feels like a significant accomplishment.

Last year, the Big Red opened the season 8-1 before losing to Virginia Tech and Syracuse of the ACC. Regardless, a nonconference record well above .500 seems like something to celebrate, and that’s where Cornell is trending this year.

They do have several tough challenges ahead, though. They’ll play Delaware next, a team who made the NCAA Tournament in March and gave Villanova a game. They’ve got Miami, fresh off a trip to the Elite 8, and Syracuse, a team they haven’t beaten since 1968. Don’t forget Colgate, who has won the Patriot League three of the last four years, either.

Opportunities against Lafayette, Lehigh and Binghamton are where Cornell will need to take advantage of inferior opponents. Not to say they can’t beat anyone, because they’ve looked impressive early on.

But put this in perspective: Earl won eight games his first season. He won just seven games in 2019-20. Five wins in a row shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s an important milestone for this up-and-coming program.

 

Cornell men spread wealth, hold off Canisius late, 79-70

ITHACA, N.Y. — After an uptempo first half saw the Cornell men score 45 points and shoot 53% from the field, Canisius managed to slow the Big Red down and claw back into the game. Jordan Henderson hit four consecutive three-pointers for the Golden Griffins and Tahj Staveskie hit two to cut their deficit down to five with 1:46 remaining, but the Big Red came up with timely stops in the final 90 seconds to defeat Canisius, 79-70.

“We pulled away a bit in the beginning and just couldn’t finish the job,” said Cornell coach Brian Earl. “We got a little bit nervous, especially in the beginning of the second half just not taking what we had in front of us.

“We’ve got to take a look at where some of the errors were. [Henderson and Staveskie] are good players, and we were sort of hoping they wouldn’t get open and they did and they made it.”

Nazir Williams notched his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, pacing a balanced scoring output for the Big Red. Guy Ragland Jr. also scored 12 off 3-for-5 perimeter shooting and Greg Dolan had 11 points and five assists. Isaiah Gray, Keller Boothby and Chris Manon each had 10.

“Tonight was a little different night, I really couldn’t make any shots,” said Williams, who went 5-for-9. “Just trying to find out what else I can do on the court if I’m not scoring – rebounding, passing and everything turned out fine.

Williams noted that playing defense can generate more energy on offense.

“Even though I’m not hitting shots, I can still always get to the rim to find my teammates, and my teammates hit shots,” Williams said.

Williams hit a contested runner with 1:13 left to put the game away after Canisius trimmed the lead to single-digits.

“We really needed that shot,” Williams said. “Down the stretch, we wanted to get good shots and I felt like I had an advantage that play.”

Cornell led by as many as 15 points in the second half. The Big Red opened the second half shooting 3-for-13 from the field, which prevented them from putting away the Golden Griffins, who went 3-for-15.

Buying into the system

Earl introduced an uptempo version of the Princeton offense last season after the Ivy League did not participate in athletics in the 2020-21 season. The Princeton offense is typically slower, not a 10-second-style system.

Earl spent the off year creating and implementing the system to prepare for the return of Ivy basketball. But he needed the team to buy into it and believe in him.

“Coach implemented a system last year – we fully bought in,” Williams said. “You’re really starting to see the great lengths we can take this, just everybody feeding off each other and sharing the ball, making shots.

“Most of us are sophomores and juniors now, it’s like we were all freshmen last year because the sophomores didn’t get to play [during 2020-21]. Just getting that experience [last year], a lot of guys averaging double-digit minutes. We just lean off our leaders if we need them, Greg [Dolan], Marcus [Filien], Sean [Hansen] — they’ve all been here before.

Cornell lost Sarju Patel, Kobe Dickson and Dean Noll to the transfer portal after their senior seasons last year. Jordan Jones entered the portal after his junior year but isn’t playing collegiately this year.

Earl added six newcomers ahead of this season, five of which are freshmen. The lone transfer, Max Watson, from Salt Lake Community College, is the only newcomer regularly playing in Earl’s system. The rest of the core this season played valuable minutes in 2021-22, which is an advantage under Earl’s unique system.

“Experience is always a thing that gets you to understand how what you want to do and what you want to stay away from,” Earl said. “It was good to get some help last year. A lot of teams have been able to scout us a little bit, too, so it’s been a little bit harder in that way.

“[Watson] has hit the ground running and we have some younger guys who are still learning stuff.”

Cornell returns to action on Saturday, when it faces Monmouth in West Long Branch, N.J. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on FloHoops.

 

2022-23 IHO Men’s Preseason Poll

Only five points separated the top three teams in the Ivy League Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll, and our final tabulation was even tighter. Just three points separated the team atop IHO contributors’ preseason poll.

Yale gets the slight nod here, with our contributors trusting James Jones to lead the Bulldogs to their fifth Ivy League title in an eight-season span in a bid to represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament for a third straight time. Penn, the Ivy League preseason poll’s top team above Princeton by a single point, also finished a single point above Princeton in our standings. Our contributors saw potential for success in a roster that returns most of the key players from last year’s squad that placed third in the Ivy standings. We’ve got Princeton pegged to finish third, aided in their quest to repeat as Ivy League champions by returning 2021-22 Ivy Player of the Year Tosan Evbuomwan but losing significant backcourt production from last year’s conference title team.

Harvard was the clear No. 4 finisher in our poll, a showing that would improve upon the disappointing sixth-place result that locked the Crimson out of the Ivy League Tournament on its home floor last season. We have Cornell ranked slightly ahead of Brown as the Big Red look to build on last season’s overachieving Ivy League Tournament berth and the Bears look to bounce back from an underachieving sixth-place finish (tied with Harvard) a season ago. Columbia and Dartmouth tied in our voting tally at the bottom of the standings as both programs look to secure their first Ivy League Tournament appearances.

Read more

Ivy League Tournament: Men’s semifinals preview

 

“The expectations (for winning) are always there, they just felt even heavier this year (due to the pandemic).  There should be several asterisks next to it (being at the Ivy League Tournament) and that’s true of all the teams.” – Princeton coach Mitch Henderson

Read more

Harvard men hold on in overtime versus Cornell to stay competitive in Ivy Madness race

Noah Kirkwood kept Harvard very much in the Ivy League Tournament race with a 31-point, eight-rebound, four-assist performance in the Crimson’s 77-72 overtime win versus Cornell Saturday. (Photo by Erica Denhoff)

After a disappointing loss at Dartmouth Friday, the Cornell men had no time to ruminate. They had to travel to Harvard and try to maintain crucial Ivy League Tournament leverage versus the Crimson.

Read more

Penn men pull off a C-suite sweep to remain in second place

Sophomore guard Jordan Dingle averaged 21 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in the team’s wins at Columbia and Cornell this weekend. (Photo by Erica Denhoff)

Facing a typical foul-heavy Ivy Saturday night game and a boisterous crowd in Newman Arena, the Penn men survived a furious rally to defeat Cornell, 73-68. Adding the hard-fought victory to Friday’s more comfortable 81-66 win at Columbia, the Quakers have now won four games in a row and remain in sole possession of second place.

Read more

Cornell men navigate gritty Dartmouth, secure victory in Ivy opener, 79-71

ITHACA, N.Y. — Dartmouth held a one-point lead at the half, but Cornell shot 60% in the second half and fended off several late rallies to win the Ivy League opener on Sunday, 79-71.

“It was exactly what the Ivy League is going to be like,” Cornell coach Brian Earl said. “[Dartmouth] knew exactly what we were going to do and we had to fight through it. They are a veteran team. It’s a pretty good win.”

Read more

Cornell men exceeding expectations in impressive 8-1 start

Most people overlooked Cornell ahead of this season. Picked seventh in the Ivy League poll, many expected the Big Red wouldn’t be much of a factor and that the team would likely win few games.

But a month into the season, the Big Red are well on their way to 10 wins before conference play even starts.

Nobody expected the Big Red to start 8-1. With nearly a brand new roster, Brian Earl’s squad has already won more games than the entire 2019-20 season, a team led by now-Syracuse star Jimmy Boeheim.

“It’s really fun,” senior forward Kobe Dickson said after a win over Canisius last week. “I love these guys [and] it’s nice to be winning with them.”

Read more

Cornell men fade late, bow to Penn State, 85-74

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Cornell men’s basketball led by 10 points in the first half, but a 19-5 Penn State run in the final seven minutes shot down Big Red’s upset attempt as the Nittany Lions held on at the Bryce Jordan Center, 85-74.

“[Penn State] had a pretty good game plan against us,” Cornell coach Brian Earl said. “We’re still learning how to play like this, and they sort of retreated well and got into some of our cutting lanes and passing lanes.”

Cornell (4-1) fell behind 14-6 in the opening seven minutes to Penn State (3-1) after a three-pointer by fifth-year senior guard Jaheam Cornwall, but a 21-3 Big Red run vaulted the visitors ahead, 27-17.

Read more