After scoring only 22 first-half points on 7-of-21 shooting, the men’s basketball team rallied back from 13 points down at Columbia on Saturday. The Red (7-8, 2-0 Ivy) defeated the Lions (4-11, 0-2 Ivy) for the second time in seven days and completed the season sweep of Columbia for the second year in a row.
“They really came out with something to prove,” said junior forward Eric Taylor. “We beat them pretty easily up here, but they played well, especially in the first half.”
“We didn’t realize how tough it would be to play there, and we didn’t match their intensity at the start of the game,” said sophomore forward Lenny Collins.
Buoyed by the support from the home crowd, the Lions jumped out to an early six-point lead on consecutive three-pointers and maintained their advantage through the first half. Cornell was unable to get into any kind of offensive rhythm, with Columbia’s defensive pressure forcing the Red to settle for long jumpshots.
“The shots that we were missing, they were hitting,” said senior point guard Ka’Ron Barnes. “I don’t think we were complacent or anything; they just kept making their shots.”
Barnes and the rest of the Red were unable to get many second-chance buckets, managing only three offensive rebounds in the first half.
“We didn’t work as hard as they did. We didn’t block out and go after the ball like we needed to,” said Collins.
With the Red staring at a 35-22 halftime score, coach Steve Donahue seemed unflappable and kept his team focused.
“All he asked us to do was to come out with more energy. We were playing so tight,” said Barnes.
“Coach told us that he was 100 percent confident that we were going to come back and win the game,” said Collins. “We had to do the things we didn’t do; we had to play Cornell basketball.”
The Red hit the court in the second half with renewed intensity and focus. Led by Barnes’s four quick baskets, Cornell cut the deficit to two In less than three minutes. In the first nine minutes of second-half action, the Red scored 24 points, two more than in the entire first half.
As the Red found its stride, the Lions lost their touch. Columbia’s shooters went cold, stifled by an energetic Red defense. The Lions shot just 20 percent from the field for the rest of the game, but were within eight points of Cornell with four minutes to play. Fortunately for the Red, it was able to sink its charity shots to preserve the lead, something it had been unable to do in several losses over winter break.
“We had a few setbacks where we lost the lead at the end,” said Collins. “Now we’re battle-tested. We know we can hold a lead.”
“We have some very good shooters on this team, like Ka’Ron and Cody [Toppert, a junior guard]. When we get up late, I know we’ll hit our shots down the stretch,” said Taylor.
Barnes led the Red in scoring with 18 points; Collins, Taylor, and Toppert were also in double figures. The Red will continue its Ivy League schedule this coming weekend with a New England road swing through Harvard and Dartmouth.
Archived article by Per Ostman