When a team cuts a 20-point deficit to one with under a minute to play, ultimately losing the game is heartbreaking. When that same team falls the following day on a 3-pointer with under a second remaining in the game, it is devastating.
The men’s basketball team faced that devastation as it kicked off its season this weekend, falling to both Marist and Northeastern in the Pepsi Marist Classic at Marist’s McCann Center.
“I think there were definitely first- and second-game jitters,” said senior captain Eric Taylor. “We really tried coming into this season trying to win those games, but it didn’t work out that way though.”
In the 72-67 loss to the Red Foxes, the Red fell behind by 15 at the half and trailed by as many as 20 points with 11:48 to play.
But the Red climbed back in behind junior Lenny Collins, who tied his career-high of 30 points, when he converted two of his own steals into five straight points, to cut the lead to five. After trading baskets, the Red remained down by five until senior Cody Toppert knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to two. But Toppert misfired on his next 3-point attempt after a Marist turnover, which would have given the Red the lead. The Red Foxes capitalized on the Red’s missed opportunity by nailing a trey of their own to give them some breathing room.
The Red kept trying to claw its way back into the game as freshman Jason Canady dropped a runner in the lane to pull the team within three, but Toppert again missed from long range with a chance to tie the game with just over a minute to play.
The squad still showed some life, though, as it forced a Marist turnover and Taylor got a bucket to bring the game within one, but that was as close as the Red would get. After a quick foul to bring the lead back to three, the Red failed to score, and Marist pulled away, taking the game by five.
Collins was the star of the game for the Red, knocking down 11-of-14 shots for 30 points, to go along with his team-high seven rebounds, one block, and one steal. Toppert and Taylor were the only other Cornell players in double figures, as they tallied 14 and 11 points, respectively.
Defensively, the Red received solid efforts from sophomore Andrew Naeve who had three blocked shots and a steal in just 13 minutes, while junior Ryan Rourke had three steals and a blocked shot to go along with his six points.
“We have a lot of different guys doing a lot of different things for us,” Taylor said. “We expect even more from [Rourke and Naeve] as the season goes on.”
Saturday night in the consolation game, the Red offense came alive, as it had four players in double-figures, shot over 54 percent from the field, and hit 12-of-24 three-pointers.
However, due to its inability to stop the Huskies’ guard duo of Jose Juan Barea and Marcus Barnes, the Red lost, 88-85.
Barnes tallied 23 points and four assists, while Barea posted a game-high 35 points, including six three-pointers, to go along with his five assists, five rebounds, and pair of steals. Barea really turned it on when he had to, as he scored Northeastern’s final 14 points, including the game-winner with just 0.9 seconds to go, giving the Huskies their first win of the young season.
The loss was even tougher than the Marist loss for the Red because it had a seven-point lead with 3:02 left to play.
“We were definitely expecting to win,” Taylor said. “Barea just hit some real big shots.”
Despite the loss, the Red had plenty of solid individual performances. Taylor posted a double-double with 14 points and a career-high 16 boards, and was joined in the 14-point club by both Collins and sophomore Graham Dow, who shot a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc. Leading the team in both scoring and assists was Toppert, who netted 20 points and five assists.
Archived article by hris Mascaro
Sun Assistant Sports Editor