After being routed in New Haven, 90-63, during Friday night’s matchup against Yale, the Cornell men’s basketball team finished its 2016-17 season on a high note, pummeling Brown in Providence, 92-78, and notching one final win for the seniors before the close of the season.
The Red (8-21,4-10 Ivy) faced a strong Yale roster (17-10,9-5), whose consistent shooting performance and efforts in the paint over the course of the night led to the Red’s downfall. Hitting 57 percent on field goals and 45 percent from 3-point land, as well as having four total players score in the double digits, Yale lept out to a 40-27 lead by the end of the first half.
Bulldog senior guard Anthony Dallier commanded the Yale offense throughout the night, contributing 18 points, five rebounds and four assists. Combined with Bulldog freshman guard Miye Oni posting 12 points, six assists and five boards, as well as senior forward Sam Downey’s 11 points. and nine rebounds, the Bulldogs effectively fended off the visitors.
“[Yale] played good defense and took a lot of good shots” head coach Brian Earl said about the results of Friday night’s game. Compared to the Bulldogs’ 57 and 45, the Red shot 44 percent from the field and 30 percent from beyond the arc.
Although sophomore guard Matt Morgan unleashed a hefty 28 points in Friday night’s matchup — becoming the first sophomore in Cornell history to reach the 1,000-point mark — the Red simply could not produce enough points to overcome Yale. WIth Downey’s consistent rebounding throughout the night, the Bulldogs outscored the Red in the paint, 46-30. Senior guard Robert Hatter and sophomore guard Troy Whiteside conversely posted just eight points each, but not enough to match Yale’s overall scoring efforts.
“Friday turned into [a game] where we were going punch-for-punch with them and all of a sudden laid down and that was disappointing” Earl said. “I just felt like we didn’t play well and didn’t execute what we said we were going to do.”
In terms of mental preparation, Earl had an overall message for his team which resonated with his players regardless of the matchup.
“I mentioned it before the game that if you’re an underclassman it’s worth playing for your friends here — to go out on a good note … and if you’re a senior it’s worth playing for your friends who are going to be here next year — to let people know how and what we can look like if we’re playing well and that worked out on Saturday”
As for dealing with the issues his team illustrated in Friday night’s weak scoring performance, Earl sought positive change through reflective film process rather than drilling his team with a last-ditch shooting practice to try and lift its percentages.
“So Saturday morning, instead of doing shootaround we just watched the first half [of the Yale game], and I think that may have been helpful … it’s always painful to see yourself, it goes to a different level of teaching” Earl said about the ways in which his team responded to Friday night’s unfortunate outcome.
With this reflective film-based process in mind, Earl and the Red traveled to Providence mentally confident in their physical abilities to crash the Bear’s senior night and bring its eighth and final win of the season back to Ithaca.
In Saturday’s matchup, Brown’s (13-17,4-10) offensive attack was led one-dimensionally by way of senior forward Steven Spieth, who scored 31 points, including eight of 16 from the floor and a perfect 11-for-11 from the charity stripe. However, instead of lying down and falling into the bad habits which caused many of its games to fall against them this season, the Red responded to the adversity that the weekend’s games presented and controlled Saturday night’s game as Earl had game-planned.
Creating an offensive storm in Providence, senior guard Robert Hatter scored 20 points, moving into the school’s top-10 scorers bracket to wrap up his career with 1,241 total points and 200 assists. Furthermore, junior guard Will Bathurst added his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds, sophomore forward Stone Gettings contributed 21 points and Morgan topped his incredible scoring weekend off with 16 more points. Putting forward a performance that consisted of multiple double digit scorers and shooting at 59 percent from the floor, the Red offense was finally able to kick into gear and grind the Bears into their home court for a 92-78 win.
“It felt good, especially after the Yale game with a team that you’re not sure which way it’s going to go,” Earl said. “It felt good to come away with a win on the last game for a few of the guys on our team and to really have a good effort overall from start to finish.”
Now with 2016-17 in the rearview, Earl is both optimistic and humble regarding what the future and the 2017-18 season hold for the program, especially given the youth that fills the Ancient Eight at the moment.
“We have a good part of our contributors back next year but it’s a young league, and you’re looking around the league and Princeton ran the table with a couple seniors helping but also a couple sophomores,” he said. “As you go down the line you have Harvard in second with younger guys, and Yale has two freshmen who are really contributing, and Penn is the same way. So we’re excited about the future but we very much know that there are other teams that have a bright future too.”
As the Red ventures into its offseason, Earl hopes to engrain consistent offense and a relentless defensive nature into his returning team’s play over the course of the next several months.
Cornell finished the 2016-17 season with an overall record of 8-21, and 4-10 within the Ivy League.
“We are going to use this spring and summer and fall to try to build a consistency and that’s one of the things what’s frustrated us most is that you can go out on a night in Princeton and hang with them for 30-something minutes, and then get blown out at Penn in the first half by 30,” he said. “And that’s something that we’re going to instill over the next couple months, that there’s a way to go about your business and you’re expected to do it and that starts now.”