Jason Ben Nathan | Sun Senior Photographer

Matt Morgan — who made the Ivy League second team last year — led the team in scoring last season.

November 2, 2016

Anatomy of a 10-18 Season: Looking Back on Cornell Basketball’s Last Place Season

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With the 2016-17 men’s basketball season fast approaching, it is a good time to look back on the team’s 2015-16 season. Last year, Cornell went 10-18 including 3-11 in Ivy League, tied for last in the conference. This season — the first with Brian Earl at the helm — kicks off on Nov. 11 against Binghamton.

The Red began last season — as the squad has for the past several years — against an ACC opponent. Cornell traveled to Georgia Tech to take on a heavily-favored Yellow Jacket squad. Cornell furiously rallied at the end of the first half and the beginning of second half, trimming a 17-point deficit to just two points. But Georgia Tech pulled away, eventually sending the Red to a 116-81 defeat

Cornell flew back to the northeast and played upstate rival Colgate three days later. The game, a 101-98 victory for the Red, was arguably Cornell’s most exciting of the season. The Red led by 17 early in the game before the Raiders orchestrated a comeback, tying the game on a 3-pointer with just over a minute left. Cormell jumped out to an early eight-point lead in overtime before Colgate again came back. Wil Bathurst’s jumper at the buzzer sent the contest to overtime, where Cornell would finish off the Raiders.

Playing its first home game of the season, Cornell put together a 76-59 over Binghamton. The win was one of the most balanced of the season for the Red, which limited the Bearcats to 36 percent shooting while making 53 percent of its own shots.

Following the win over Binghamton, Cornell played another in-state rival, Canisius. The Griffins pulled away from the Red in the second half, outscoring Cornell 51-29 in the final 20 minutes. The Red briefly held the lead after halftime, but after that it was all Canisius, and Cornell lost 87-62. The Red shot just 31 percent in the second half.

The Red bounced back in a big way by defeating Penn State at Harrisburg handedly. Cornell earned a 76-47 win thanks to senior forward David Onuorah’s 15 rebounds and double digit performances from sophomore guard Matt Morgan and senior guards Darryl Smith and Robert Hatter.

The day before Thanksgiving, Cornell played another ACC opponent, Pittsburg. The Panthers dominated the Red, opening up a 46-19 lead at the half on route to a 93-49 blowout of the Red. Morgan was held scoreless, missing all seven of his field goal attempts. No Cornell player had more than eight points in the loss.

After the blowout loss, the Red lost a nail-biter to UMass Lowell, 80-77. The River Hawks took a 15-point lead before Cornell came back to take the lead in the beginning of the second half. Morgan’s 3-pointer at the buzzer missed and UMass Lowell issued Cornell its fourth loss of the season.

Led by Hatter’s 32 points, Cornell overtook Siena, 81-80. The Saints led by five with a minute and a half left, but strong shooting from Hatter and the rest of the offense helped the Red down Siena and move to 4-4 on the year.

Hatter continued his hot performance at home against Lafayette on Dec. 5, the team’s final game before the break for final exams. The senior guard hung up 29 points on the Leopards as Cornell won 85-67. Smith, Onuorah and junior forward Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof also scored in double figures.

Two weeks later, after the Ivy League’s mandated study period, Cornell played its annual game against powerhouse Syracuse. The Red lost 67-46 to the Orange, who went on to the NCAA FInal Four in March Madness. In front of a crowd of 18,000 at the Carrier Dome, Cornell struggled to match up to Syracuse’s size and was outrebounded, 48-27.

Cornell then lost to Monmouth and its celebratory bench, 78-69. Hatter’s 27 points were not enough for the Red to pull off the upset. The loss dropped Cornell to back below .500 for the season.

The Red got back in the win column with a 65-62 win over St. Peters to end 2015. Bathurst, Morgan and Hatter all had at least 16 points, and, despite a late scare from the Peacocks, Cornell completed the victory.

To begin 2016, the team lost to Albany, 75-70. After a back-and-forth first half, Albany took control in the second half, always keeping the Red an arm’s length away.

Cornell’s final out-of-conference game was a 84-81 victory over Howard. Another strong offensive performance from Hatter — this time 27 points — helped the Red pull away from the Bison in the second half. Cornell shot over 50 percent in both halves while limiting Howard to under 40 percent shooting for the game.

The Red started its Ivy League season with a 74-70 loss to Columbia. Playing without Hatter — who was out with an ankle injury — Cornell hung with Columbia for much of the game, but the heavily-favored Lions squad pulled off the victory. Morgan scored 29 in the loss.

In a rematch a week later, the Red again lost to Columbia, this time by a score of 79-68. Again without Hatter, Morgan led the team in scoring. Columbia would go on to finish 10-4 in the league.

Cornell traveled to Cambridge the next weekend to play Harvard. Morgan starred in the 77-65 win once again, scoring 33 points, including five 3-pointers. But the most important 3-point shot came from the most unlikely source: David Onuorah. The 6-foot-9 forward knocked down a shot from beyond the arc to put the Red up by five with under two minutes to play.

The Red picked up its second Ivy win of the season the next day when Cornell defeated Dartmouth, 77-73. Morgan tallied 32 points. Smith also chipped in 13 points to continue his hot shooting streak.

Returning Hatter the next weekend was not enough for the Red to defeat Brown in Providence on Feb. 5. Five players scored in double figures for Cornell in the 86-80 loss. The Red led briefly in the second half, but a quick 10-2 run from Brown put Cornell in a hole it could not recover from.

Cornell dropped its fourth Ivy game, 83-52, when the squad visited Yale the following day. The Bulldogs outscored the Red 52-26 in the first half on route to their 31-point blowout. Hatter struggled in his second game back from injury, connecting on just one of nine of his field goal attempts.

Playing against another top Ivy competitor, Princeton, yielded a similar result the next weekend. The Tigers downed Cornell, 85-56, holding the Red to just 36 percent shooting in Ithaca.

The next night, Morgan and Hatter’s combined 49 points was not enough to overtake Penn, as the team fell, 92-84. The Quakers pulled away in the second half, shooting 63 percent. In the second half, Cornell was carried by senior guard JoJo Fallas, who scored all of his 16 points in the final 20 minutes.

A week later, the squad fell behind Dartmouth by double digits in the first half, but was unable to clamor back, eventually losing, 78-66. In a battle of two of the best rookies in league history — Dartmouth forward Evan Boudreaux and Morgan — Boudreaux, the eventual rookie of the year, bested Morgan, posting 22 points and 18 rebounds.

The Red’s most heartbreaking loss occurred the next day against Harvard. Thanks to sharp shooting from Morgan, Cornell led 27-10 early in the game, eventually taking a 15-point lead into halftime. The second half was all Harvard and the Crimson stormed back from 20 down to issue Cornell a 76-74 defeat. Morgan had 22 points in the first half, but just five in second half.

Cornell’s losing streak continued into the next week when the team lost 79-67 to Penn. Hatter’s 31 points, four rebounds and four assists were not enough for the Red to come out victorious over a Quaker team that finished 5-9 in the league.

Despite a strong first half from the Red, the next day, Princeton pushed past Cornell in the second half to earn its 10th Ivy win of the season. The 74-60 loss dropped the Red to 2-10 in in-conference play.

Yale’s win over Cornell the next weekend gave the Bulldogs at least a share of the Ivy title. Like the pair’s last matchup, the Red struggled to contain the Yale offense and lost, 88-64. Morgan missed all seven of his 3-point tries and had the lowest output in in-conference games of the season.

The Red completed its season with a 75-71 win over Brown in Ithaca the next night. Cornell held the lead for much of the game and fended off a late Brown rally to win the game and snap a nine-game losing streak.