“You’ve got to be able to win on the road in this league,” said head coach Steve Donahue going into the Red’s first extended Ivy road trip of the season.
And playing in front of a heckling crowd in a foreign arena, a win is far from assured, no matter how outmatched one team may be on paper.
In games at Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend, the men’s basketball team showed it could deal with the pressure and come out on top.
“That’s been our goal,” said Donahue about the two road victories.
First,Cornell produced a 91-79 come-back win on Friday. Then the team traveled to the hinterland of Hanover, N.H. where the Red beat the cold with a 68-62 victory over the Green.
The results extended Cornell’s winning streak to three and gave the team a 4-0 conference record for the first time since the 1964-65 season.
Things didn’t start out so promising for the Red though. In the first half Friday night, the Crimson came out firing, running its way to a 33-19 advantage with less than seven minutes to play in the half.
“I just felt Harvard came out really ready to go and really executed,” said Donahue.
He remained confident in his squad though. Cornell worked its way back to a 39-35 deficit at the half and came out ready to turn it up a notch in the second.
“I thought if we kept executing on the offensive end and made the stops on defense, we’d be fine,” noted Donahue.
The Red returned to the floor with a 17-9 to take the lead at the start of the half and held the Crimson to 33 percent shooting from the floor.
“We’re a very good second half team,” said Donahue.
With both starting big men, juniors Gabe Stephenson and Eric Taylor, out for most of the second half with foul trouble, Donahue praised his reserves, particularly David Lisle and center Andrew Naeve, for keeping the team in the game.
“Andrew did a tremendous job coming off the bench,” the coach noted.
Lisle had seven boards and three assists to share the leads in both categories.
Sophomore Lenny Collins scored a career-high 19 points and contributed six boards to lead the team with a solid all-around effort. Cody Toppert and Ka’Ron Barnes added the team’s firepower with 23 and 22 points, respectively.
Saturday against Dartmouth, the Red made a point to keep up its intensity.
“We had to come out and play the first half of that one,” said Donahue.
The Green would have been a much harder team to come back against, he noted.
So Cornell went to work early, battling its way through a back and forth first period to a 29-25 lead at the half.
In the second, the Red answered everything Dartmouth had for it, never letting the Green come close to the lead on the way to the win.
“We defended, we made stops,” said Donahue.
Ivy League scoring leader Barnes led the way for the Red with 16 first-half points and 25 overall, while marksman Toppert made sure Dartmouth knew its place, at one point hitting 11 straight points in the second on his way to 22 for the evening.
Donahue was quick to note Eric Taylor’s contribution though.
“Eric Taylor had as much to do with than win as anybody,”
Taylor, the coach noted, shut down the Green’s offensive scheme, playing the oppressive defense Cornell needed to win.
Next weekend the team will travel to Providence and New Haven to finish up its six-game road swing against Brown and Yale.
“We’re just looking at it one weekend at a time,” said Donahue about the Ivy contests on the road.
Each weekend, he noted, is its own little two-game tournament. Without a question, the team came away from this weekend with a win.
“It’s a big step for our program