Sophomore center Eric Taylor’s 22 first half points sparked Cornell to a 50-34 halftime lead against host Buffalo, and the Red withstood a late charge by the Bulls to win its opener 78-72.
Third-year head coach Steve Donahue was enthusiastic about his team’s play, commenting, “I think it’s a great win for our program to come in front of four or five thousand screaming people and play pretty good basketball against a good team, a team that will be even better as the season goes on.”
Compared to Bill Walton by Buffalo head coach Reggie Witherspoon, Taylor finished with a career high 30 points on 14-16 shooting from the floor, adding 9 rebounds and 3 assists.
“That was the best offensive performance in the history of basketball. Eric Taylor looked like Bill Walton. At halftime I thought he may have been the best player in college basketball history. He did whatever he wanted,” a dejected Witherspoon said.
Fellow sophomore Cody Toppert hit several key second half shots, finishing with 18 on the night. Additionally, freshman swingman Lenny Collins contributed 10 points, seven boards, and four assists to the winning effort. Key performers for Buffalo included senior center Clement Smith who scored 13 points, while adding 10 rebounds, and sophomore forward Daniel Gilbert who added 15. Sophomore point guard Turner Battle shot an unimpressive 6-17 from the floor, but managed a team high 19 points, while adding 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Buffalo jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead punctuated by a thunderous slam-dunk by Gilbert that brought the crowd of 4,131 to its feet. However, the Red quickly regrouped, taking control of the game thanks to an 11-0 run that put Cornell ahead 23-11 as Taylor began to assert himself down low.
Taylor, commenting on his astounding success, said, “I think I was just able to get a lot of offensive rebounds. That was where I got a lot of my points. I was just able to crash the boards and get some points there. They single teamed me for the most part in the post, and I was able to make moves that way