With Ivy League leading scorer Robert Hatter watching from the bench, Cornell dropped its second-straight game to Columbia, this time by a score of 79-68. Without Hatter, it was, once again, freshman guard Matt Morgan who lead the team in scoring, finishing with 26 points. Junior forward David Onuorah was the only other player for Cornell who had double digit points, scoring 10 points and pulling down eight rebounds.
The Red fell victim to Columbia’s sharp-shooting giving up 54 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The Lions were 13 of 24 on 3-point field goals, compared with the Red’s fove of 26, all but one of which came from Morgan.
“Give [Columbia] credit for making shots,” said head coach Bill Courtney. “They’re a top scoring team in our league with some of the best 3-point shooters in our league. We took that away the first time, we didn’t take that away tonight.”
Morgan led all scorers but required 23 shots to do so, connecting on nine of them. After a first half in which he was more of a facilitator, towards the end of the game, the freshman began to attack the basket on nearly every play, going right at Columbia’s big men, trying to pull Cornell back into striking distance. But the Lions kept making shots, sending the Red to its second in-conference loss of the season.
Morgan also showed poise playing point guard, tying a career high with four assists and turning the ball over only twice, four times fewer than in the Red’s four-point loss at Columbia last week.
In that game, the Red played more consistent perimeter defense limiting the Lions to just 30 percent shooting on 3-point field goals.
“We did a much better job last week of flying at shooters, contesting shots,” Courtney said. “I thought tonight, because of foul trouble, we had to back off a little bit defensively. Then they were able to run their offense a little better.”
In the first half, the Red battled with Columbia, playing smothering defense right out of the gate. Nine minutes into the game, two free throws from freshman guard Joel Davis gave Cornell a 17-12 lead. The Lions, however, exploited the sometimes over-zealous defense and used quick ball movement to lead to wide open shots. Three straight made 3-point jumpers allowed Columbia to take a 21-12 lead.
The second of the trio of threes came from Maodo Lo, Columbia’s star guard, who ended with 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting. Last week, the Red did a much better job of containing him, forcing him to miss 8 of his 13 shot attempts. In today’s game, Lo sliced through Cornell’s defense, requiring the Red to collapse its defense, each time he drove to the hoop.
In the second half, the defense began to let up, allowing Columbia to shoot 60 percent from the field, including six of nine on threes.
“We didn’t have necessarily the defensive intensity we normally would have, or that we wanted to have, guarding them in the second half,” Courtney said.
Columbia began to build its lead as the first half ended, taking a three point lead after 20 minutes of largely back-and-forth play. After halftime, the Lions came out firing, outscoring the Red 8-0 in the first two and a half minutes of the second period. Junior guard JoJo Fallas made a three to stop the run, but Columbia answered right back with a three of its own.
Freshman guard Troy Whiteside’s layup with 13:38 left in the game, cut the Columbia lead to 5, the closest Cornell would get for the rest of the game. Following the layup, the Lions went on a 7-0 run and held a 55-43 lead with under 12 minutes left.
With Whiteside filling in for the injured Hatter and Davis replacing junior guard Darryl Smith in the starting lineup, Cornell started a total of three freshmen. Just like last week, the freshmen’s impact was apparent. Along with Stone Gettings and Matt Morgan, all four of the freshmen who played scored at least five points.
Up next for the Red will search for its first in-conference wins when the team goes on a road trip to Dartmouth and Harvard.