In a game with two overtimes, 199 total points and countless “I don’t believe it” moments, the victory came to the team that wanted it more.
“We have to be the group that gets those second balls, that gets to the floor, that makes what we call winning plays,” said head coach Bill Courtney. “We made enough of those plays to come up with the W.”
The Red battled Colgate for 40 minutes of regulation then 10 more in two overtimes, eventually coming away with the thrilling victory. Cornell overcame foul trouble and mistakes to beat Colgate, 101-98.
Cornell (1-1) had an early 18 point lead against the Raiders (1-1), but the Red started faltering in the second half.
Three straight 3-pointers brought the Raiders within two, and a couple minutes later the lead was down to one, but sophomore guard Robert Hatter hit a shot from beyond the arc to bring the lead back up to four. He sunk two free throws on the next possession to give Cornell a 72-66 lead. Colgate quickly cut the lead back to one.
Hatter finished with a game-high 33 points, but fouled out before the end of regulation. Late in regulation, sophomore Jordan Abdur-Raoof also fouled out of the game as did David Onuorah in the second overtime.
Before he fouled out, Hatter dominated, showing his offensive versatility. The guard sliced through Colgate’s defense, shooting 11 0f 20 from the floor including four of nine on 3-pointers. Onuorah similarly had a great with nine points and a career-high 14 rebounds. Already a very young squad, without the two junior starters, Cornell was left with an nexperienced group of players
“When they fouled out down the stretch, and it was just [the young guys] out on the floor, everybody kind of had to go to a different role,” Courtney said. “I think adjusting to those different roles that they normally don’t see was a little bit of an adjustment. They made some mistakes during that time, but once they got through that learning curve they were able to make some plays down the stretch.”
Late in regulation, Colgate took the lead off a pair of free throws after Hatter was whistled for his fifth foul.
The Raiders stretched the lead to three but junior guard Darryl Smith answered back with a corner three with 35 seconds to play. Freshman guard Matt Morgan tried a deep three to win the game but it was off the mark.
In the first overtime, Smith led the way, giving the Red its first four points in overtime. He connected on two free throws with under two minutes to play to bring Cornell up eight.
But just when it seemed like the Red could cruise to the win, Colgate turned up the pressure and furiously came back, making shots and forcing Cornell into turnovers. Down by one, Colgate hit a three to give the Raiders a two point lead. Facing the possibility of dropping to 0-2 on the season, sophomore Wil Bathurst drove and laid the ball up and in to send the game to double overtime. Bathurst ended with 14 points and seven rebounds coming off the bench.
Morgan had two 3-pointers in the second overtime but Colgate’s shooting remained hot as well. Morgan had 12 of his 16 points in the extra periods.
With less than a minute to play, Morgan ripped down a rebound on the defensive end after a Colgate miss. After some quick ball movement, freshman guard Troy Whiteside made a three in the corner, putting the the Red up by three with 48 seconds left.
Colgate hit a couple of shots after, but sharpshooting from the free throw line from the Red kept the game just out of reach. The Raiders’ shot to send the game to triple overtime was just off the mark and Cornell escaped with its first win of the season.
At various times throughout the game, Cornell seemed to have the win locked up, but turnovers or missed assignments on defense allowed Colgate to hang around. Despite the mistakes throughout the game, Courtney said he’s proud of the way the team continued to stay with the Raiders and not give up.
“We didn’t show a lot of basketball smarts, but we showed a lot of basketball heart,” Courtney said. “When the game was on the line, guys who had made bad plays before stepped up and made huge plays to help us win the basketball game.”
With such a young, inexperienced team, Courtney said he sees the game as great learning moment for Cornell.
“You can’t simulate this practice,” Courtney said. “It’s one of those things that has to happen in a game experience and having those pressure situations. It’s good to get that learning experience and still get the win.”