SYRACUSE – The Cinderella story almost came early this year. With five minutes left to play, the men’s basketball team led No. 16 Syracuse, 55-54, in front of a crowd of 17,188 in the Carrier Dome last night. But, as the chants of “Let’s go, Orange!” became deafening, the combination of Eric Devendorf’s lay-ups and Gerry McNamara’s shooting proved to be strong enough to earn an Orange victory, 67-62.
“You don’t get many opportunities [at Cornell] to play in this kind of environment against this kind of team, and I thought the guys played that way,” said Cornell head coach Steve Donahue. “I thought they played hard, I thought they played to win. Did we play a good game, execution-wise? I don’t think so. [We did] play inspired basketball at times. I think we really had a gutsy performance, I thought we really stepped up.”
Freshman point guard Adam Gore was outstanding for the Red (1-1), finishing with 22 points, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range. Senior tri-captain forward Lenny Collins added 20 points – including a three at the final buzzer – and seven rebounds. Junior center Andrew Naeve chipped in 10 points and 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
Syracuse (2-0) featured a balanced attack, led by Terrence Roberts with 19 points, 14 rebounds, and five steals. McNamara added 17 points and five assists, shooting 0-for-10 from beyond the arc, but making up for it with a 13-of-14 performance at the free-throw line. Demetrius Nichols had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Darryl Watkins had eight blocks, nine rebounds, and seven points for the Orange.
“I really felt we were fortunate to beat [Cornell] last year,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. “I think they’re better this year, I think they’ve got a better team. I think they’re patient, they move the ball as well as anyone we play against and they find open guys and knock down shots.”
The Orange jumped out to a 9-0 lead before Collins hit two free throws at 16:02 to put the Red on the board. Syracuse continued to dominate, as Roberts slammed home three dunks and added a free throw to keep his team ahead.
However, Cornell refused to roll over, as Collins and Gore got the offense going from the outside, while Naeve added a dunk of his own to pull the Red within three. Gore followed Naeve’s slam with his second 3-pointer to tie the score, 20-20, with 6:10 to play in the first half.
Roberts hit another jumper and a free throw to put the Orange ahead again, but Gore answered from downtown to tie the game once more. A foul by junior Graham Dow sent McNamara to the line, who connected on both tries to put Syracuse back on top. Roberts pushed the lead to three after being fouled by Cornell junior co-captain Ryan Rourke, and a jumper from Nichols followed by a lay-up from Roberts stretched the Orange advantage to seven.
Nichols sent Naeve to the free-throw line on the next possession, where center cut the Red’s deficit to five. With 1:21 left in the half, Watkins converted on an old-fashioned 3-point play after being fouled by Cornell junior Jason Hartford, and McNamara followed with one of his two field goals for the night to make the score 35-25. Naeve cut the Orange’s halftime lead to eight, hitting two free throws after being fouled by Roberts.
The Red picked up where it left off after the break, trading scores with Syracuse and gradually cutting into the Orange’s lead. Gore hit from beyond the arc three times, while Collins and Hartford each added a trey, as the Red’s long-range attack wore the Orange down. At 12:45, Gore’s three tied the score for the second time, and his third 3-pointer of the night on the next possession capped a 20-8 run by Cornell and gave the Red its first lead of the game, 47-44.
“[Gore] was huge,” Collins said. “It seems like you always get someone to step up and hit six, seven threes, and it just happened to be him tonight. He strokes it. He’s shot well since the day he got here and he’s not a typical freshman – he’s pretty level-headed, he’s solid out there. He’s got a lot of poise for a freshman.”
But with 12:00 left on the clock, the game was far from over. McNamara went 2-for-2 after being fouled by Gore to cut the Red’s lead to one. Collins gave Cornell some breathing room with a 3-pointer at 9:50, which was answered by a Nichols lay-up on the following Orange possession. The Red fed Collins for another jumper, but Roberts got his first points of the second half with a dunk at 8:21 to cut Cornell’s advantage to 52-50. Cornell sophomore Khaliq Gant connected on a free throw after being fouled by Nichols, but Roberts added another jumper for the Orange on its next trip down the floor. As the crowd in the Dome rose to its feet, Naeve went 2-for-4 from the foul line to keep the Red ahead, 55-52.
But the Cornell lead looked to be in danger, as the Orange turned up the defensive effort and found a new energy on offense in the form of Devendorf.
“They really didn’t get a wide open look in the last five minutes,” Boeheim said. “And that’s good, that’s good defense – the last four minutes, we were as good defensively as we needed to be.”
Devendorf converted on a drive into traffic to cut the lead to one once again. This set the stage for a go-ahead jumper from Roberts, followed by two McNamara free throws to give the Orange its first three-point lead in nearly 10 minutes. Devendorf hit two more lay-ups in the lane, with a Hartford jumper for Cornell in between keeping the Red in the game. However, Cornell was forced to foul down the stretch, and Louie McCroskey and McNamara went a combined 5-for-6 from the line to ice the win for the Orange. Two late foul shots from Collins, as well as a 3-pointer at the buzzer, kept hope alive, but it wasn’t enough as the Red fell, 67-62.
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor