For the second time this season, the Red was outmuscled in the paint by an ACC opponent on the road. But unlike its game against Georgia Tech in the team’s opener, there was no sharpshooting from Cornell’s shooters to keep the game close.
The Red fell behind early to Pittsburg and ended up losing, 93-49. As was the case in Atlanta against a bigger team, Cornell was outscored in the paint, 30-12. The Panthers also held the advantage in rebounds, 47-31. The Red shot below 30 percent from the floor, compared to 47 percent against Georgia Tech.
“Going into the game, you knew it was going to be a challenge,” said head coach Bill Courtney. “We’re not having great success on the backboards right now. They’re a team that prides themselves on getting on the backboards, so it was kind of a mismatch in that area.”
Courtney’s defensive schemes call for the disruption of opponents’ offensive rhythm. Against Pitt, despite the disadvantage in size, Cornell tried to do just that. Unfortunately, Pitt’s offense was too much to handle.
On offense, Cornell’s starters struggled to make shots, shooting 6 for 35. All together the team shot 29.5 percent. No player for Cornell scored in double figures.
“We just want to learn from that some of the things that we do not want to do moving forward,” Courtney said. “That was the main thing we took out of that game, because there really weren’t a lot of positives.”
Against UMass Lowell, the Red’s shooters did a better job of hitting their shots, but the team still lost, this time by a score of 80-77. After being held scoreless the night before, freshman guard Matt Morgan scored 23 points and dished out four assists.
Courtney said the freshman came out a bit hesitant to start the game, but after a quick talk from a couple of the coaches, Morgan was back to attacking and being agressive. He was instrumental in the second half, scoring 17 points including a couple of baskets toward the end of the game that kept Cornell close to UMass Lowell.
Morgan’s three-pointer with six minutes left put Cornell up by one, but the Red couldn’t hold on. A couple of missed shots and turnovers from the Red allowed the River Hawks to get up by six with about a minute to go, putting the game out of reach for Cornell.
In what is beginning to be a recurring theme for this Cornell team, junior forward David Onuorah encountered early foul trouble and was forced to take a seat on the bench. He only played 15 minutes all game, the fewest among the starters. Courtney said the 6-foot-9 big man has been working playing smarter to limit the fouls he’s called for. Twice against the River Hawks, Onuorah was whistled for fouls going for offensive rebounds when the opponent already had the ball.
Junior guard Robert Hatter had 14 points and 5 assists against UMass Lowell. Freshman guard Troy Whiteside was also in double figures with 10 points. He had a team-high six rebounds. Overall the team shot 40 percent and was outrebounded, 46-27.
Courtney said fatigue from playing four games in a span eight days, including two long road trips, hurt the Red’s performance all game. The condensed game schedule has also limited the practices for the team. While the freshmen on the team have improved since the beginning of the season, Courtney points to the shortened practice schedule as a major reason why their defense is quite up to the level that it could be.
Despite that, Courtney said the freshman have gained invaluable game experience so far. The freshmen have also already bought into the quick pace system, which bodes well for the rest of the season, according to Courtney.
“What we saw was if we can play the way we want to play, which is uptempo, pressure defense, racing the ball up the floor, then we can be successful. The more minutes we can play that style, the better off for us,” Courtney said. “If we are not able to get the game going that way, which we were not in the first half [against UMass Lowell], then teams can take advantage of, one, our lack of size and, two, running their half court offense. Once we can take people out of that, that’s when we’re most successful.”