December 3, 2002

M. Cagers Beat Crosstown Ithaca Bombers, 83-66

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Junior Ka’Ron Barnes scored 19 points, and sophomore Cody Toppert added 17, as the men’s basketball team (2-1, 0-0 Ivy) defeated crosstown rival Ithaca College (1-2, 0-0 Empire 8 Conference) 83-66 last night in Newman Arena.

Sophomore A.J. Castro scored 12 and had four steals, while Sean Clifford led the Bombers with 16 points, including four three-pointers.

Sophomore Grant Harrell scored the game’s first points, a three-pointer just under 20 seconds into the game. Ithaca’s Matt Riggins responded with a three-pointer of his own less than 30 seconds later, but the play quickly unraveled after that. The two teams combined for 12 turnovers over eight minutes of play before the Red was able to get into a rhythm and put together an 8-0 run about midway through the half to push the score to 18-7.

Cornell was unable to maintain control, however, and quickly relinquished its lead. Over the latter 9:30 of the first half, Ithaca outscored Cornell 24-21 and cut the Red lead to as little as two before Barnes drained a three with 32 seconds remaining to give Cornell a 33-28 lead at the break.

“They came out pretty hard,” said Barnes. “I don’t know if it took us by surprise a little bit in the first half; maybe it was a little unexpected.”

Cornell came out much stronger in the second half, opening with a 16-5 run to extend its lead to 19 with 13:59 remaining on the clock.

“Our whole thing at halftime was we need to get things back in order very quickly,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “The first five minutes had to be a good, stable run for us.”

The Bombers fought back behind sharp shooting by guard Jesse Roth, who scored 14 points in a three-minute span, bringing Ithaca within six points at 55-49.

Toppert responded seconds later with his first of two consecutive three-pointers that pushed the Cornell lead to 63-53 with 9:27 remaining.

“Any time I can get open, if my teammates can find me and I can get a little look, I can get a shot off,” Toppert said. “This year, there are no excuses for us to miss shots because we’re a much better team than we were last year.”

That would be the closest Ithaca would get for the remainder of the game, as the Red cruised to a 50-point half, attaining its largest lead of the game, 83-62, with 37 seconds remaining en route to the 83-66 final.

“I thought to win the game by 17, I’m happy,” said Donahue. “We didn’t play great, but I think they had a lot to do with it. Give them a lot of credit.”

Cornell struggled with its foul shooting throughout, shooting only 53.8 percent on the game.

“That was pretty not good,” said Toppert, a career 90-percent foul shooter who went two for four last night. “We had guys miss free throws who really don’t miss free throws, and we really can’t let that happen anymore.”

Sophomore center Eric Taylor, continuing to experiment with a jumpshot from the line, shot a dismal 3-11, a weakness that he will concentrate on in the coming weeks of practice. Despite his struggles at the line, Taylor posted another solid effort, scoring 11 points with eight rebounds.

Archived article by Owen Bochner