After sending ripples through the Ivy League by sweeping a pair of road games last weekend, Cornell men’s basketball followed it up this weekend with two losses. Brown pulled away in the final minutes to pull off an 86-80 victory, while Yale led wire-to-wire on route to an 83-52 domination of the Red.
Junior guard Robert Hatter — who injured himself days before the team’s first Ivy League game against Columbia in January — made his return this weekend but struggled to find his rhythm.
“Any time you miss four weeks of action, there’s going to be a little rust,” said head coach Bill Courtney. “He’s not 100 percent right now. He’s trying to figure out where he can be effective. It’s like starting all over again. In practice, he’s got to figure out where his recovery is at and what his role on the team is.”
Hatter scored 19 points while shooting seven of 22 from the floor against Brown. Freshman guard Matt Morgan also notched 19 points on the night.
The Red got off to a quick start, scoring the game’s first six points. Following a couple of lay-ups and jump shots from Brown forward Cedric Kuakumensah, however, the Bears took a 15-12 lead. Kuakumensah finished the game with 16 points on an efficient 7-for-10 shooting.
“We made a lot of mistakes defensively at the beginning of the Brown game,” Courtney said. “We didn’t get over on the outside of the floor, which we needed to do and talked about all week. That really hurt us. … We shot ourselves in the foot more than Kuakumensah dominated us.”
Brown stretched the lead later in the first half to nine, but a quick rally from the Red capped off by junior guard Darryl Smith’s shot with one second left helped cut the deficit to three.
Cornell struggled out of the break, as has been its struggle in the past several games. The Bears took advantage, opening the lead back up to nine. However, the Red — using a balanced offensive attack — took back the lead.
Balance was key for Cornell all night. Five separate players scored at least 10 points. Aside from Hatter and Morgan, Smith added 13, and junior forward David Onuorah and sophomore forward Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof each either tied or set new career highs.
The Bears answered right back, connecting on a layup and then a 3-pointer. Despite a couple late baskets from the Red, Brown connected on all six of its free throws with under a minute left and was able to hold on for the victory.
The Yale game was a completely different story. The Bulldogs scored the first basket and never looked back. With three minutes left in the first half, Yale had stretched its lead to 46-18.
The big story of the night was Yale’s rebounding domination. The Bulldogs outrebounded Cornell 56-22, and Yale had almost as many offensive rebounds as the Red had total rebounds.
The Bulldogs also had 13 more assisted baskets than the Red.
“You have to make shots to get assists,” Courtney said. “If you set guys up for shots and they miss, then you can’t get the assist.”
Morgan continued his magical season and finished as the team’s leading scorer, notching 20 points in the loss. He was the only Cornell player in double digits.
Courtney admitted that it is tough to think positively after this weekend.
“We’ll just keep working,” Courtney said. “That’s the one thing we’ll take from it. We got to continue to fight, I think we did that in the second half of the Yale game where we didn’t hang our heads, but we instead continued to fight.”