The men’s basketball team lives and dies by the 3-point shot.
Last night, behind a breakout performance by rookie forward Cody Toppert and a school record 14 3s, the Red (1-5) recorded its first victory of the season by defeating cross-town Ithaca College (2-3) 77-45.
The game was part of the Coaches vs. Cancer series, which has tried to raise money across the country for cancer research.
Cornell started the game strong, using a 10-0 run to secure an 18-6 advantage. However, Division III Ithaca College would not allow the Red to pull away, playing rigid defense throughout the first half. The Bombers held Cornell scoreless for more than a seven minute stretch, cutting the deficit to 24-18 at the half.
In the first half, the Red shot just 9-for-31 from the field including 4-for-14 from behind the arc.
Head coach Steve Donahue attributed his team’s lackluster play in the first half on lack of patience on the offensive end.
“We got impatient, thinking we’re going to make this 10-point lead a 30-point lead. Ithaca’s way better than these guys thought at that time and it’s going to be a game if you play like that.”
Toppert acknowledged that the team was being outworked.
“[Donahue] told us we needed to work harder. To their credit, they
came out and worked hard on the offensive end and got some easy looks.”
As well as the Bombers played in the first half, the second half belonged
to Toppert and Cornell. The Red burst out of the gates and immediately
built a nine-point lead at 29-20. The resilient bunch from South Hill
scrapped to within six at 34-28 on a jumper by forward Matthew Riggins.
That was as close as Ithaca College would get, however, as the Cody Toppert
Over the next five minutes, Toppert drained six consecutive shots,
including 3-pointers on four straight possessions. Proving that he is not a
one-dimensional spot-up shooter, the rookie then proceeded to hit a tough
fade-away in the lane, followed by a layup on a backdoor cut. His 16 points
in that span spearheaded a 22-4 Cornell blitz that put the game out of reach.
“We knew that he could shoot. He’s got the reputation of being a great
shooter,” Ithaca coach Jim Mullins said of Toppert. “Clearly he’s going to
be a great player for Cornell, but we didn’t expect him to do what he did
Donahue felt that Toppert’s shots settled the team and was the difference
“[The team is] playing well, they’re getting breaks, and balls seem like
they’re falling in for them and falling off for us. And he steps up to hit
four or five 3’s there to get us going.”
Prior to his 10-for-15 shooting night, which included 6-for-9 3-pointers,
Toppert had shot just 27 percent from behind the arc. However, the sharpshooter knew he’d turn it around.
“I’ve been getting good looks and I just haven’t been knocking them down,” Toppert said. “My teammates and I know when I’m open, I should shoot it.”
After being outscored 53-27 in the second half, Mullins was frustrated
with his team’s lack of effort.
“Obviously we did not shoot the ball well at all, but I was more disappointed in our effort than our shooting. I felt that Cornell completely outplayed us in the second half. They wanted the game more. It was a clinic in being out-hustled.”
In the victory, Cornell tied a school record with 14 3s. On the evening, the club knocked down 14 of its 31 attempts, led by Toppert’s six 3s. In all, nine Red players had at least one 3-pointer. Of the 59 field goal attempts, more than half were from behind the arc.
Donahue attributed the high number of 3-point attempts to Ithaca’s defense.
“We get a team tonight that’s almost forcing you to shoot the 3 the
way they’re sagging off. This is different than the Colgate game where I
believe there wasn’t enough patience on the offensive end.”
In addition to Toppert’s 26 points, senior guard Wallace Prather added
11. He also picked up three steals, which now puts him in second place on
the school’s all-time steals list at 152. He needs just four more steals to
tie the school record held by DeShawn Standard ’98.
Forward Jason Wallen led the way for the Bombers with 12 points.
Despite his team’s lackluster performance, Mullins hopes that this
first-ever regular season meeting between the two teams is the start of a rivalry.
“Certainly we’d like another crack at them,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Red is just happy to have notched it first win of the season.
“We’re doing everything we can to get ourselves a win. We’ve got to have
some reward for our hard work, so this win is very important,” Donahue
said. “I feel good about us now that we have something to build on.”
Archived article by Alex Ip