Over winter break the men’s basketball team hit the road around the holidays like many other Cornellians. The only difference was that the team was heading across the country to face competition from the Atlantic-10 and Big East conferences alike, while most students were heading home. On the trip, the team compiled a 2-4 record to put their season mark at 5-8 before dropping a game at Columbia last Saturday in the team’s Ivy opener. The Red’s first test over the break was a Bucknell team that is in the midst of a nine-game winning streak, including victories over No. 17 Pittsburgh and Cornell, 59-44. In that game, the Red and Bison were tied at 36 at the half, but shot just 25 percent in the second frame and gave up a 15-1 run — allowing Bucknell to pull away. The 44-point output was a season low for the Red, who had just two players in double figures — seniors Eric Taylor and Cody Toppert, who finished with 11 and 13 points, respectively. Up next for the Red was trip to the Carrier Dome to face No. 7 Syracuse. Despite Cornell knocking down a school and Carrier Dome-record 15 three-pointers, the Orange outlasted the Red, 82-69, behind 19 points and 10 rebounds from Hakim Warrick and 16 apiece from Josh Pace and Terrence Roberts. Pacing the Red was Toppert, who shot 7-for-10 from three-point range and finished with 23 points and a career-high seven assists. The Red lost its third contest in as many tries to St. Francis (N.Y.), 70-63. Like the game against Bucknell 10 days prior, the Terriers used a run in the second half to pull away. This time it was a 12-3 spurt en route to a seven-point win. Junior Lenny Collins led the Red with 15 points to go along with his six rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Taylor chipped in with nine points and three blocks to go along with his team-best seven rebounds, while junior Ryan Rourke netted 13 points.
The squad broke it’s three-game losing streak in the first two games of the new year, defeating both Army and Lehigh on the road.
Cornell used stingy defensive play to limit the Black Knights to just 51 points and 17-of-40 shooting, while forcing 20 turnovers, including 11 steals. Leading the way for the Red were Collins, who netted 18 points, five rebounds, and four assists, and Taylor, who posted 11 points and four rebounds. Toppert was the spark off the bench with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
The win over Lehigh two nights later was somewhat of a mirror image of the Army game, as the team again used strong defense to hold the Mountain Hawks to just 45 points. Again, Collins led the way with 14 points, to go along with a season-high nine rebounds, and again, the team forced 20 turnovers.
The difference in that game was the Red’s overcoming of a 13-point first half deficit to earn a 10-point win. During the second-half turnaround, the Red shot 59 percent, ad it nailed all six of its three-point attempts in the frame.
The non-conference season ended with a final loss in Dayton Arena to the Flyers, 62-51, as the Red shot 33 percent and lost the rebounding battle 44-27. Collins and Taylor were the only players on the team in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively. The team lost despite a boost off the bench from Toppert and freshman Will Scott, who tallied nine points each, while sophomore Andrew Naeve swatted down a career-high three shots.
Archived article by hris Mascaro
Sun Assistant Sports Editor