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.