The student body turned out en masse for the men’s basketball team yesterday, and the Red gave them a good fight. A crowd of 4,762 filled the seats of Newman Arena from tip-off to the last minute to support the team in its home opener against Georgia Tech.
Head coach Steve Donahue was grateful for the cheering section.
“The student body was tremendous,” he said. “I appreciate it; our guys appreciate it.”
Senior captain Ka’Ron Barnes agreed.
“The atmosphere was terrific. I think it was good for the school overall and the program,” he concluded.
Unfortunately for the Red, though, the team couldn’t convert the support into a win, falling to the Yellow Jackets, 90-69.
But much of the game was closer than the score would suggest. Cornell came into the second half down 42-38 and worked its way back to a one-point deficit with a 13:16 left in the game. Just when the Red looked like it might take the lead, though, Tech launched a 14-2 run over four minutes to take back the momentum and put the game out of reach.
“A lot of it had to do with Georgia Tech’s athleticism,” said Donahue.
Tech took over with two fast-break dunks and a stretch of dominating defense that saw it clamping down on the Red’s outside shooting and gobbling up as many rebounds as it could.
With a deeper line-up, Tech wore the Red down in the second half to take the advantage. The Yellow Jackets sealed the deal with an aggressive defense, holding Cornell to 30.3 percent shooting in the final period, with the Red shooting only 1-for-12 from three-point land.
“I thought in the second half we paid a little more attention to their shooters,” said Tech head coach Paul Hewitt.
“That’s one of the things we pride ourselves in,” said Yellow Jackets guard Jarrett Jack, “the defensive pressure.”
The Yellow Jackets benefited from the athletic play of junior All-ACC guard B. J. Taylor on both ends of the floor in the second stanza, when he contributed six rebounds and 12 points. Jack led the Yellow Jackets with 21 points and eight assists.
Turnovers killed the Red, as it gave up 21 in the game. Donahue cited that as the team’s greatest problem.
“We got real careless,” he said.
That led to easy points for Tech and missed opportunities for the Red.
The second half score obscured a well played first by Cornell. In the first, the team played sharp, aggressive basketball, moving the ball around well and converting on its defensive rebounds.
In the initial period the team shot 53.8 percent on three point attempts — including junior Cody Toppert shooting 4-7 from downtown — moved the ball around well, and ran the fast break with success.
“In my opinion, we outplayed them in the first half,” said Donahue.
The coach cited the team’s defense and at times its rebounding as positives for the Red.
“When we rebound the ball we’re pretty good,” Donahue noted, saying that area will likely be key to the Red’s success this season.
For the evening, Barnes led the way for Cornell with 21 points and six assists. Junior forward Gabe Stephenson made his return from injury with 10 rebounds, including six offensive boards — half the team’s total.
“It felt really good,” he said about seeing his first extended time in more than a year. “It felt real nice to get into the flow.”
Hewitt praised the Red’s effort overall.
“This is a good team,” he said. “They’re going to be in the Ivy League race.”
And to be sure, both the team and the school would be happy about that. It would undoubtedly lead to more crowds like the one the team saw yesterday, which would only make the Cornell harder to beat.
“I just hope we get atmosphere like that for the rest of the season,” said Stephenson.
Archived article by Matt James