The men’s basketball team took the trip of a lifetime this past May, playing four games during a 10-day tour of Australia. The Red enjoyed great success on the court, going 3-1, but the greatest benefit will likely come at the start of the season in November.
Cornell was led by junior forward Cody Toppert, who erupted for 29.8 points per game on the trip. In addition, senior point guard Ka’Ron Barnes averaged 23 ppg, as the Red outscored its opponents by an average margin of 25 points.
The cagers opened the trip with a 140-80 blowout over the New South Wales Under-18 All Star team on May 25. Cornell shot a sparkling 49 percent from the floor as five players scored in double figures, including Toppert, who scored a trip-high 38 points on 14-19 shooting.
Cornell dominated the boards as well, outrebounding New South Wales by 87-35. Junior Grant Harrell led the effort with 16 rebounds, while classmates Eric Taylor and Gabe Stephenson pulled down 14 and 15, respectively.
Cornell blew the game open with a 22-0 run to open the third quarter.
The next day, the Red again cruised, defeating the Sutherland Sharks 110-69. Cornell doubled up on the Sharks 64-32 in the second half to key the victory. Toppert again led the scoring with 25, while Barnes and sophomore Lenny Collins added 17 points apiece.
The Red’s fundamentals were greatly improved in this second game, as the team totaled 21 steals and 32 assists on 39 field goals. The cagers held Sutherland to just 32 percent shooting.
Cornell stumbled in its third game in as many days, falling 115-109 to the Kuiyam Pride in Cairns. Despite the loss, Toppert, Barnes and Collins continued their prolific scoring, registering a total of 73 points. Barnes also dished out nine assists, while Collins recorded his first double-double of the trip with 10 rebounds.
Despite trailing for most of the game, the Red took a brief 103-101 lead with 2:48 left. However, the Pride ended the game on a 14-6 run to seal the tight game. The turning point was the second quarter, in which Kuiyam outscored Cornell 34-20.
After an off day, the Red concluded its exhibition tour with a 102-98 win over the Cairns Marlins on May 28. Barnes led the Red’s offense with 26 points and six assists, while Toppert scored 25 points and added three steals.
The cagers rebounded from a slow start, and overcame a 14-point deficit in the first quarter to claim the win. Cornell opened the second quarter on a 25-2 run and continued to lead throughout the third quarter. After Cairns took a one-point lead in the fourth, Barnes caught fire and carried the Red to with four-point win.
The trip allowed the cagers an opportunity to become familiar with international court configurations and rules. This familiarity could become highly useful in the near future, as the NCAA is considering adopting some international rules, such as the location of the 3-point line. In addition, the trip also provided valuable game experience to a young team. Donahue and his charges will look to apply that experience when the 2003-04 season begins on Nov. 23 against Georgia Tech.
Archived article by Owen Bochner