In a postgame interview after last week’s blowout loss to Columbia, junior Stone Gettings gave his assurance that the Cornell men’s basketball team would be able to avenge its loss the following week.
The forward certainly held true to his promise.
Despite some late-game heroics by Columbia’s Gabe Stefanini, the Red (7-10, 1-3 Ivy) managed to hold on in the nail-biter for a 82-81 win against Columbia (4-13, 1-3) this Saturday. With the win, the squad secures its first Ivy win four games into conference play.
Cornell’s power duo of Gettings and fellow junior Matt Morgan once again shouldered much of the offensive load. Gettings poured in 25 points on 50 percent from the field and seven boards, while Morgan totaled a game-high 29 points on an extremely efficient 72.7 percent from the field, making all four of his three-pointers.
“The team chemistry is starting to gel right now, which makes it easier for [Morgan and me],” Gettings said. “We worked hard this weekend, found the open man, and just knocked down shots with confidence.”
Following last weekend’s game in which the Lions torched Cornell for 16 three pointers, the Red changed up its defensive scheme to run shooters off the line and force the drive. Head coach Brian Earl also found success experimenting with a matchup 3-2 zone which visibly confused Columbia’s recognition on the defense.
“Our defense leads to our offense and just being able to keep teams off balance is helpful for us,” Morgan said. “I think it all came down to communication and fight today. We forced them to shoot some shots that they weren’t comfortable with and we rebounded the ball.”
After heading into the locker room at halftime trailing 39-35, Cornell was able to overcome a slow start and secure the lead early in the second half. All 15 of the Red’s bench points came in the later period, and the squad was able to improve its shooting from the field from 40 percent in the first half to 63.16 percent in the second.
The last few minutes of the game featured a back-and-forth affair with the two teams trading buckets before Cornell secured the lead by a slim margin in the last two minutes. Despite two late game desperation threes by Columbia’s Stefanini, Morgan and Gettings were able to seal the win at the free throw line.
“Our guys that were out there were pretty winded, and so were [Columbia’s] guys. It was kind of like two heavyweight punchers in the final round,” Earl said of the final two minutes of the game. “We managed to eek out the win. Matt and Stone had a big part in that, but the other guys did all the things that you need to do to win down the stretch.”
With the win, the young Cornell squad is beginning to transition from non-conference play into the more intense Ivy League pace. Cornell will look to continue to quickly expose its younger players to quality minutes, especially with injuries to key rotation players such as juniors Troy Whiteside and Jack Gordon.
“We’ve won a couple big games this year, but when you hit the Ivy League everyone is going as hard as they can,” Earl said. “We’re missing a few guys from last season who started and played significant minutes. With the three or four guys who haven’t played a lot of Ivy League minutes they’re gonna learn quick and painfully [that] the pace, effort, and concentration is double that in league games.”
The Red will hope to keep its newfound momentum going as it continues its home stand next Friday, Feb. 2 against Dartmouth.