December 6, 2001

M. Basketball Slips Against Bulls

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The men’s basketball team (1-6, 0-0 Ivy) was unable to convert its hustle and intensity in the second half into points on the scoreboard last night, as the visiting Buffalo Bulls (4-2, 0-0 MAC) claimed their fourth win of the season, 65-54 at Newman Arena. Under head coach Reggie Witherspoon, Buffalo has already matched its win total from last season.

The Bulls led 38-27 with two seconds left in the first half before a 25-foot 3-pointer by sophomore Ka’Ron Barnes pulled Cornell within eight at the break.

Then the Red opened up the second half with a 10-4 run, keyed by a pair of freshman Cody Toppert field goals and a 3 by senior co-captain Wallace Prather. But that was the closest Cornell would get from that point on. Buffalo responded by reeling off nine straight points, including a pair of 3s and a layup by senior guard Gabe Cagwin.

With 5:33 remaining in the game, the Red came within striking distance again after a pair of Prather free throws made the score 53-47. The Bulls were able to respond again with a big 3-pointer from senior Darcel Williams.

Cornell’s last-ditch effort came with 1:46 remaining in the contest. Down by nine, a fierce defensive effort by Prather forced Buffalo into a shot-clock violation. Red head coach Steve Donahue took a timeout and called a play to get the ball to his hot shooter, Toppert, who was coming off a 26-point performance against Ithaca.

“We were going to run a little double screen for Cody,” Donahue recalled.

But Cornell was never able to get the ball into the freshman’s hands for a clean shot, though, as junior Jake Rohe was called for a traveling violation.

The Red had eight steals in the second half, and its full court press even caused Witherspoon to take a timeout. Despite the increased intensity of Cornell’s defense, the Red had trouble controlling the ball on offense, turning the ball over 17 times in the game.

Meanwhile, Buffalo had 19 total turnovers. But clutch outside shooting sealed the win for the Bulls, who shot 50 percent from behind the arc in the second half.

“We got some chances to convert, but we didn’t do that after the steals. That’s more the problem. It’s the offense,” Donahue explained. “The important issue is that we have chances to finish plays in the offensive end where we just don’t, especially at critical times. We make some foolish mistakes.”

Prather recorded two steals in the game, leaving him just one shy of the school career record of 155 held by DeShawn Standard ’98. Prather’s eight points in the game also put him past the 900 career points mark.

Rebounding again proved to be a weak link for the Red. The Bulls used their size advantage to pull down a total of 37 boards to Cornell’s 25. In the Red’s end, Buffalo was able to grab 13 offensive rebounds, while Cornell only managed 16 defensive boards.

“We are what we are in terms of size,” Donahue said. “We’re not doing a good enough job going after basketballs right now.”

Williams ruled the glass for the Bulls, snatching a game-high 15 rebounds. He was equally deadly on the offensive side of the ball, where he was 5-for-8 from 3-point range. Buffalo’s leading scorer, he totaled a game-high 19 points, completing the double-double.

Toppert led the Red in scoring with 14 points, and classmate Eric Taylor paced the team in rebounding with seven total boards.

Cornell will take the court in search of its first win against a Division I opponent on Saturday afternoon, when it travels to Lafayette to take on the 3-4 Leopards. Lafayette, which is led by senior Brian Burke, is coming off an 88-84 win at Drexel last night.

Archived article by Alex Fineman