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Last year, late game heroics sent Cornell to a thrilling double overtime victory over Colgate.
Against the Raiders Wednesday, the Red could not find the same magic and Cornell dropped its third straight game to begin the 2016-17 season, losing to Colgate at home, 67-63.
“We have so much improving we have to do,” said head coach Brian Earl. “It’s taxing on the guys to play in a very different way and we’re not there.”
Since arriving on campus, Earl has implemented a new vision for the program, but it has yet to take shape fully on the court. Sophomore guard Matt Morgan admitted it has been “tough” learning the new system.
“It’s a big adjustment from last year, a lot of ball movement, a lot of player movement,” Morgan said.
After a first half, in which Cornell held the lead for the majority of the 20 minutes, the teams traded leads throughout much of the second half, neither squad getting much separation. There were 11 total lead changes throughout the game.
It is the third straight close game for the Red and learning how to play in these contests that go down to the wire is something the team has learned so far this season, according to Morgan.
“There’s been a lot of close games early in the season, we just haven’t closed them out the way that we wanted to,” Morgan said. “Learning how to close games effectively is something we can takeaway for the rest of the season.”
Colgate began to pull away late in the second half, making just enough stops to keep the Red an arm’s length away, but never close enough to get back on top.
The Red showed some life with under two minutes left when sophomore forward Stone Gettings leaped up to grab an offensive rebound. He put back the miss to cut the lead to five with 1:48 left in the game.
Morgan then was fouled on a layup. He hit the ensuing foul shot to bring Colgate’s lead to two. Morgan hustled on the next play to steal the inbounds pass and draw a foul. He hit one of two free throws.
Colgate then scored, but Morgan was right there to draw another foul, and he made both free throws. A Gettings foul sent Colgate’s Malcolm Regisford to the line, who made both. Morgan missed a layup on the next possession and sharpshooting from Colgate helped the Raiders complete the win.
Morgan, a second team All-Ivy selection last year, led the way with 20 points in 32 minutes, marking the third time he’s led the team in points through three games this season.
Gettings also had a strong game, notching 14 points and pulling down six rebounds. He scored the game’s first seven points, flexing his offensive versatility. Earl said he hopes to feature Gettings and other forwards more prominently on offense going forward
“We need to use our big guys a little bit more efficiently,” Earl said. “[We need to] get them the ball in situations when they can hurt the defense with passing or scoring.”
Through most of the game, the offense as a whole was “disjointed,” according to the first-year head coach. The team had just six assisted baskets all game.
Earl did, however, praise a backdoor cut from sophomore Whiteside that led to a wide-open layup, saying that he envisions the team running more of those plays.
“There’s more than one of those per game that we can get,” Earl said. “That’s a really great outcome. But why do we only have one per game?”
The Red ended just 23 percent from beyond the arc, marking the third time the team has struggled from deep.
“We’re getting the shots that we want, we just go to focus in and knock them down,” the sophomore said. “There’s no excuses to it. I don’t think this will last very long, we’ll start hitting shots.”
Cornell goes back on the road Sunday and Tuesday for a pair of away games against Lafayette and Monmouth.