The Cornell men’s basketball (9-15, 2-8 Ivy) team suffered another pair of losses against conference opponents Dartmouth (9-15, 3-7) and Harvard (9-15, 3-7) at home. Weathering a six-game losing skid, the Red hopes for better luck when they travel to Penn and Princeton this weekend.
“We gave up buckets too easily,” said head coach Bill Courtney on the games against Dartmouth and Harvard. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make shots the way that we had been making them, and that cost us, especially in the first half.”
Freshman Matt Morgan to only scored 16 points for the Red against Dartmouth on Friday – only half the amount of points he made in an earlier game against the Green.
“Our concentration was to come out and play better defense than we had the last few games,” Courtney said. “I felt like we did that except for a small portion of the second half.”
Though Dartmouth put the Red into an early hole, junior Darryl Smith led a strong comeback effort, scoring a career high 22 points and making a career high of 9 field goals made. He also led his team with two assists and managed to earn five rebounds, a block and a steal.
After climbing out of a 20-point deficit, Cornell managed to get the game to a close 68-62 differential with 1:45 on the clock. Unfortunately, the Red ran into trouble with turnovers and fouls, letting Dartmouth take the 78-66 victory.
“We started to fall back into some bad habits defensively in the second half compared to the first,” Courtney said. “We want to do a better job protecting the paint and not letting players just destroy us in there.”
Dartmouth freshman Evan Boudreaux had a terrific night on the floor, scoring 22 points with a season high 18 rebounds, giving him his third consecutive double-double and ninth of this season. Near the end of the game, Boudreaux fired away a 3-point shot which fouled out junior David Onuorah. It shattered all hope of a late-game comeback for Cornell.
“We didn’t have a lot of our key guys on the floor,” Courtney said. “When you combine that with the not making shots and not executing, it resulted in Dartmouth having the chance to take the lead. We were playing catch up from there.”
The Red experienced an even more tragic loss the following evening against Harvard. The Crimson were able to overcome a 21-point deficit with 9:02 on the clock, making it the 21st-largest second-half comeback in NCAA history as well as an agonizing 76-74 loss for Cornell.
After the half, the Red seemed to be able to contain the Harvard offense, answering every shot up until there was about 15:00 left on the clock. The Crimson finally found their stride, closing the gap and capitalizing on almost every opportunity offensively and defensively. Harvard freshman Tommy McCarthy led the charge in coming back, scoring a career high 21 points as well as hitting the game-winning field goal with 5 seconds remaining in the game.
Despite the miserable conclusion, Morgan was able to play a favorable game. He led all scorers with 27 points, surpassing Ryan Wittman’s ’10 freshman school record for the leading scorer in the program’s history. Morgan currently has 439 total career points and has four more games to further solidify his record.
Morgan was the only Cornell player to score in the double digits for the night. The rest of the team struggled, as both junior JoJo Fallas and sophomore Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof had eight points and junior Darryl Smith had seven points.
“We’re a small group and that has not been great for us, but we have to get better,” Courtney said.
The chance for a conference title is out of the picture for the Red, but Courtney does not see that as an excuse to play with less intensity.
“We want to keep going,” Courtney said. “We’re such a young group. This season for us is just about playing one game at a time and trying to improve upon the last time that we were out. The goal is to be a better team than we were yesterday.”
Cornell travels to both Penn and Princeton this weekend to avenge their pair of losses in their last meetings at home. The matchup against Penn tips off at 7 p.m. on Friday and the Princeton game will follow the next day at 6 p.m.