“That was as disappointing a loss as I’ve ever had,” Cornell head coach Steve Donahue lamented.
After opening with a dominating run and taking a 20–4 lead, Cornell faltered in the second half, eventually falling to Bucknell in overtime 71–62.
“That’s a sign of where we’re at with our game,” Donahue explained, referring to the second half effort. “[In the first half], we really execute our game plan and the kids are focused in what they do. But it’s a long game, and there are stretches where we don’t play well, for whatever reason. We’re getting better.”
Certainly the play of freshman A.J. Castro and sophomore Ka’ron Barnes raised some eyes.
Barnes tied a career high with 21 points and kept his team alive late in the fourth quarter. With under two minutes left in the game, he hit a clutch three–pointer to his give his team a 48–46 lead. On his next possession, Barnes drove straight to the basket and recorded a three–point play leaving the score at 51–46 with 1:12 left.
Feeling the pressure and urged on by the crowd, Bucknell responded, closing to 53–50 while holding one more possession. With four seconds left, Boakai Lalugba took a pass from half court and nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key, sending the game into overtime.
Castro also played well, recording 12 points on five of six shooting while pulling down seven rebounds. He was two for two from downtown.
“There are obviously some things that we could have done to win that game,” Donahue said. “There are stretches in the game where we don’t execute on offense. We’ll do five, ten minutes of great offense — hard cuts, precision and great execution. And then we’ll go through stretches where we’ll have three or four turnovers.
“We need to continue getting good shots and good looks at the basket, and then we can set up our defense and they won’t get easy transition baskets. That’s more of what I’m concerned with than anything else.”
In the opening minutes, the Red played Donahue’s offense to perfection. Freshman guard Cody Toppert poured in six points while Cornell’s defense held the Bison to just two field goals over 12 minutes. But Donahue knew the game was not yet out of reach.
“[I’ve] been around this enough — that’s a hard place to play on the road. They’re going to make a run. They made a run and we kind of answered it.”
Bucknell went to a ten point run before Cornell answered with a seven point run of its own, leaving the score at 27–14. At the half, the Red led 30–20.
“A team that knows how to win, wins that game. We’re not a team that knows how to win. That includes the coaches and the players. For whatever reason, we don’t know how to close it out.”
In overtime, Cornell was outscored 18–9. After a Jake Rohe–dunk off of the tipoff, the Bison scored eight unanswered points. The Red cut the lead to four with one minute left, but could not pull of Lalubga–like heroics.
The Bison was led by Lalugba who scored 30 points on twelve of twenty shooting. Matt Quin and Dan Blankenship were the only other players in double digits with 16 points.
The Cornell defense remained solid for a third game — picking up nine steals. Toppert, Rohe, Barnes and senior co–captain Wallace Prather each notched two.
Cornell hopes to pick up its first win of the season tomorrow night against No. 12 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.
Archived article by Sumeet Sarin