Like much of the rest of the country, the men’s basketball team was traveling over Thanksgiving. The road trip produced mixed results for the Red, as the squad went 1-1 during the holiday break.
Last Tuesday, Cornell earned a 65-56 victory over Army before losing a tight, 57-56, game against in-state rival Binghamton on Saturday.
The win against Army (3-2) was big for Cornell (4-2), as the Red was hoping to rebound from a 90-71 blowout loss to Lehigh on Nov. 17 in its last road contest. This time, the squad traveled to West Point, N.Y., more prepared and ready to regain its winning ways.
“[Head coach Steve Donahue] was trying to emphasize mental toughness all week so we would be ready to play on the road,” said sophomore Brian Kreefer. “After Lehigh, he challenged us to be tough on the road and we really responded.”
[img_assist|nid=20229|title=m bball|desc=Freshman Louis Dale (40) had 11 points and led the Red with three assists in Cornell’s 57-56 loss at Binghamton last Saturday.|link=popup|align=right|width=72|height=100]
Kreefer took center stage against the Black Knights, scoring a career-high 23 points including five shots from beyond the 3-point arc. The Red led most of the way, and after Army closed the gap to four with just under two minutes to play, Kreefer nailed a 3-pointer to extend the lead back to seven points and help secure the victory for the Red.
“I really just let the game come to me,” Kreefer said. “My teammates were getting me the ball and I was able to step up and hit some shots.”
The freshman duo of Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale also got in on a large share of the offensive action — scoring 14 and 12 points, respectively — and continued to up its play in the absence of last season’s leading scorer, sophomore Adam Gore.
“At this point, we have realized that we lost our top scorer, and somebody needs to step up so that we can stay on the same level as we would be with Adam in the game,” Dale said.
On defense, the Red held Army to under 40 percent shooting from the field, including a combined 5-of-27 — a dismal 19 percent — by leading scorers Jarell Brown and Matt Bell. Bell still led the way with 12 points for the Black Knights.
In a see-saw game that was the Red’s second of the week, Cornell and Binghamton swapped leads 15 times before the Bearcats secured the final tally of 57-56.
Wittman led the Red with a career-high 19 points. Dale had 11 points and Kreefer had 10 points and five rebounds for the Red.
It would not be enough, however, as Troy Hailey and company converted on 10-of-20 from beyond the arc to lead Binghamton (3-1) and give the Red its second loss in the last three games — all on the road.
Cornell would have a chance to win on the final possession of the game when Donahue designed an inbounds play to get the ball to the hot-handed Wittman. After coming off a stagger screen set by Kreefer and senior tri-captain Andrew Naeve, Wittman was unable to get open and the ball was instead inbounded to Kreefer at the top of the key with four seconds remaining.
Kreefer drove and put up a runner that flew off the rim and landed back in his hands. But he just missed the tip-in as time expired to seal the game.
“I needed to do something in that situation,” Kreefer said. “I took it upon myself to put a shot off that would give us a chance at a rebound, but I was unable to convert.”
The loss was a learning experience for the Red.
“This will help us a lot,” Dale said. “We learned that we can’t take anything for granted, espe cially at the end of the game. To win, we have to play with a lot of intensity over the course of the entire game.”
Cornell’s younger players, like Dale, also were exposed to a back-and-forth dogfight — a style of game that will likely be played many times once the Ivy League season rolls around.
“There are a lot of close games during the league season,” Kreefer said. “Even though it hurts to lose like that, games of that kind really build a team up and are a good experience to have.”