When Brian Earl was hired as head coach of the Cornell’s men’s basketball program, many assumed he would turn around a lackluster offense that shot just 42 percent from the floor last season. Yet through three games — all losses — Cornell has only connected on 40 percent of its shots.
After the Red’s most recent defeat on Wednesday, sophomore guard Matt Morgan said the shots would begin to fall. Against Lafayette, the shots certainly fell and Cornell won, 82-75.
“It felt good [to get the first win],” Earl said. “And the way we did it was helpful. We locked into what we needed to do and sort of executed the whole day.”
Led by a spectacular performance by sophomore forward Donovan Wright playing in just his fourth career game, the Red shot 52 percent from the field, including 56 percent on 3-pointers.
In the three games before Sunday’s clash against Lafayette, Wright scored a total 11 points. Against the Leopards, the sophomore amassed 26 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including 8-of-10 from beyond the arc.
“He took what came to him,” Earl said of the sophomore. “He was probably on [Lafayette’s] scouting report as more of a driver, offensive rebounder, and he found himself open a lot.”
Wright got the scoring started early, knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers in the first two and a half minutes. He would go on to score 11 more points in the first half, on route to his career day.
A game after the Red totaled just six assisted baskets all Colgate, the Red had 19 assists against the Leopards. It was this ball movement that enable Cornell to get open looks at the hoop. According the Earl, it all started with senior guard Robert Hatter, who orchestrated the team’s high-powered offense on Sunday, despite finishing with 12 points and three assists.
“Robert just controlled things,” Earl said. “He sort of figured out that we wanted to run our own pace and he made all the right decisions. … He managed the game really well for us.”
Many of Wright’s 3-pointers were made possible by Hatter and fellow guard Matt Morgan’s ability to draw defenders on their slashing drives. The two guards would kick the ball out to an open Wright for an easy 3-pointer.
Cornell got a boost in the passing game from a surprising source: forward Stone Gettings. The sophomore was effective passing out of the post in Sunday’s game, drawing double teams down low.
“He’s a guard in a 6-8 body,” Earl said of Gettings.
The forward finished the game with eight rebounds and eight assists to accompany his 12 points.
In the second straight game without senior center David Onuorah, the Red’s stalwart defensive presence down low, Cornell played solid defense, limiting the Leopards to 47 percent shooting.
Lafayette briefly led four minutes into the game, but then Wright started connecting on shots and the Leopards were forced to play catch-up the rest of the contest.
Wright’s fourth 3-pointer of the night gave Cornell a 20-point lead with eight minutes to play in the first half. Lafayette narrowed the gap as the period ended, but the Red still took a 12-point lead into the locker room.
Wright and company continued their strong performance in the second half and went on to take down Lafayette to snap the three-game losing skid.
Although the win was Earl’s first as a head coach, he is quick to look onward to what’s next, and what’s next is pretty daunting for the Red: games against two talented squads, Monmouth and Houston.
With both games coming within the next week, the squad hopes to get back to .500 before the squad returns home to play Northeastern on Nov. 30.