A crisp first half resulting in a 20-point lead at the break, capped off by a deep buzzer-beating 3-pointer from junior guard Matt Morgan, had Cornell men’s basketball buzzing with confidence early on Monday night. That excitement was short-lived, as Binghamton responded strongly with a 23-2 run to make it a two-point game early in the second half.
But after that point, and when the team needed it most, Cornell regained its composure to hang on for a 94-84 win over the Bearcats to notch its first win of the 2017-18 season in its home opener.
“Honestly, I was a little panicked,” head coach Brian Earl said of his team’s start to the second half. “We mentioned it in the locker room at halftime that they wouldn’t go down without a fight, and they certainly did come all the way back.”
Cornell was able to show its might early, aided by 16 first-half points from Morgan, the reigning Ivy League scoring champion. Morgan led his team’s scoring efforts in the season-opening loss to Syracuse and knew it was especially important for his team to bounce back and secure a win at home.
“After the loss to Syracuse to open the season, we all knew that we needed to come away with a big home win tonight,” said Morgan, who finished Monday night with 26 points. “Everyone contributed, and I just have to give all the credit to my teammates and coaches for putting me in a position to succeed.”
With Cornell already ahead by double digits late in the first half, junior guard Jack Gordon sunk back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Red a clear stranglehold on the game before Morgan’s buzzer beater heading into the intermission.
Take a look at Matt Morgan’s DEEP buzzer-beating 3-ball from the scoring table to make it a 20-point game at the half. pic.twitter.com/Rgf2TKGnu9
— Cornell Sun Sports (@DailySunSports) November 14, 2017
But the Bearcats came storming back just minutes into the second half, utilizing a 23-2 run to cut the Red lead to 54-52, invoking the panicked sentiments from Earl.
Shortly thereafter, Cornell junior guard Joel Davis was able to clot his team’s bleeding, scoring four straight points and drawing a charge to re-establish the Red’s home court advantage.
Cornell ended up responding to Binghamton’s run with an 18-4 surge to ease both the worried coach and fans in Newman Arena. Morgan helped Cornell reclaim its double-digit lead during the outburst with consecutive deep 3-pointers. He finished the night 4-6 from downtown.
“Clearly, we had the ability to score at all times throughout the game,” Earl said. “We have a group of great players both in the starting lineup and on the bench, but we just have to figure it out as the season goes on.”
The Red’s ability to ice the game was helped by junior forward Stone Gettings’ perfect 10-10 night from the free throw line — more free throws than he made in 28 appearances over the course of his freshman season.
Cornell was also helped by junior transfer forward Steven Julian’s 10 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double in his first home game as a member of the Red. Freshman Terrance McBride, also making his home debut, acted as a steady ball handler for his team, scoring six points to go along with four rebounds and four assists on top of not committing a turnover in his 25 minutes on the floor.
“I try to do whatever I can to help the team when I am on the floor,” Julian said. “Tonight, I focused on playing good defense and rebounding, and we won, so I’m happy with the result.”
Throughout the game, Binghamton center Thomas Bruce was able to seemingly score at will. He ended the night leading all scorers with 28 points on top of 11 rebounds. He also caused all three of Cornell’s big men to dip into foul trouble toward the end of the game.
Now with a win under its belt, the Red will stay relatively local, traveling to take on Colgate Thursday, hoping to avenge last season’s 67-63 defeat at the hands of the Raiders.
“Colgate returns a lot of guys from their team last year, so I suspect that it is going to be a grind for us,” Earl said. “We just want to keep improving on the things that we can do well, such as playing better defensively. I think that anytime we can go out there and play a good, smart team like Colgate, it will help us.”