With two games over Thanksgiving break, the men’s basketball team was hungry for more than just turkey.
The Red went 1-1, feasting on Colgate 69-56 last Tuesday in its home opener, while catching the short end of the wishbone in a 73-71 loss to Hartford, this past Saturday in Connecticut.
Cornell’s 13-point victory on Tuesday came against a Colgate squad that had bested the Red in the two teams’ four prior meetings.
“It’s a huge win because they’ve dominated us the last few years,” said junior center Andrew Naeve. “It’s great to do it back to them once.”
Junior forward Jason Hartford got things rolling for the Red (2-3). Coming off the bench two minutes into the game, Hartford scored Cornell’s first seven points, pounding Colgate (2-2) down low with a sweeping hook shot and connecting on a trey from the left side of the arc.
“In our games so far, we haven’t came out intense right off the start,” Hartford said. “I saw that we were starting slow. So when I went on the floor, I wanted to take it to them and start picking us up.
Freshman Adam Gore knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Red up 16-9 at the 12-minute media timeout. However, senior tri-captain Lenny Collins picked up his second foul just a few seconds after the timeout, giving the crowd at Newman Arena cause for concern.
The Raiders’ hopes of capitalizing on Collins’ absence were dashed by a strong showing from the Cornell bench. Freshman Jason Battle collected a loose ball at midcourt for an easy lay-up and sophomore Khaliq Gant drained a quick trey to put Cornell up 25-13 with just over seven minutes left in the first half.
Colgate seemed to be swinging the momentum in its favor, as an old-fashioned 3-point play from Jon Simon cut Cornell’s lead to 29-23 with just over three minutes to play. A steal at half court from junior Graham Dow led to a second Gant 3-pointer to give Cornell a nine-point lead, 34-25, at the half.
The Red began to pull away in the second half. Five quick points from Naeve, and treys from Gore, Collins and senior tri-captain Ryan Rourke pushed Cornell’s lead to 52-32 with just under 15 minutes remaining.
Yet, Collins picked up his fourth foul just under 12 minutes left.
At that point, Cornell head coach Steve Donahue switched the Red’s defense into a trapping 1-3-1 zone in order to protect one of his leading scorers and also to pressure an inexperienced Colgate backcourt.
Pressuring the Raiders’ guards up top before they could establish the offense, the Red forced 14 turnovers from Colgate, limiting its opponents to 43 percent from the floor.
“I thought they were pretty good with all their sets as a team,” Donahue said. “I felt that we [needed to] take them out of their rhythm.”
“We were just flying around being active,” Hartford said. “Usually, we don’t trap in the top but we knew they weren’t very good with pressure so we just flew and trapped them in the top corners and to see how well they could handle the pressure with us flying around.”
A pair of quick 3-pointers brought the Raiders within 10 with less than a minute to play, but clutch free-throw shooting kept the Red’s lead in double digits until the final buzzer sounded.
The Red shot 52 percent from the floor. Gore led the scoring for the Red with 16 points, nine from behind the 3-point line. Naeve had a career-high 14 points and nine boards.
“I thought we brought it [Tuesday] like they’ve brought it the last four times we played. We were really reacting to the ball quicker as a team,” Donahue said. “I thought that we brought the energy, we brought the passion that they had against us in the past.”
Cornell carried its momentum from the Colgate win into Saturday’s contest against the Hartford, but couldn’t quite come away with the victory. Down 18 points in the second half, the Red rallied to within one point, before falling to the Hawks.
Cornell matched up evenly with Hartford in the beginning, as both sides shot an even 50 percent from the floor in a first half which saw 10 lead changes.
“We did a good job on defense early and that’s something we’ve done well this year,” Donahue said.
However, the Red stumbled out of the break. Poor transition defense and a cold streak on offense allowed Hartford to build its lead up to 18. The Hawks capitalized on the play of their senior big man Kenny Adeleke. Coming off the bench, Adeleke dominated the post position, torching Cornell for 20 points on the game.
“[Adeleke’s] a great player,” Donahue said. We knew that he was going to be a focal point and that he was going to be a difficult match-up.”
Although down 18, the cagers refused to surrender. Cornell mounted its comeback effort from behind the arc, with 3s from Collins, Gore, Gant, and Hartford.
Gore’s fifth trey of the half brought the Red within one, 67-66, with 2 1/2 minutes to play. However, Adeleke hit two clutch field goals down the stretch, and blocked a shot by Collins with 13.5 seconds remaining that would have tied the game, as the home team held on for the narrow victory.
Collins scored 15 points on the game, while Gant turned in a career-high 13 for the Red. Of Cornell’s 13 second half field goals, 11 were 3-pointers.
“You don’t want to put yourself in that spot but – we’re a team that can make the three and I give our guys credit I thought we played hard throughout we competed,” Donahue said. “We just dug ourselves way to big a hole and against a good team, on the road you’re just not going to come back.”
Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Staff Writer