Seven games into the season and a little over a month away from Ivy League play, Cornell men’s basketball finds itself at one game under .500, slowly establishing its identity on both sides of the floor.
After returning last season’s core of juniors Matt Morgan and Stone Gettings, and senior Wil Bathurst, the team has incorporated new pieces into the offense, regularly going 10 players deep through its first seven games. As such, the depth has helped the Red begin to click on both the offensive and defensive end.
“We’ve been more comfortable in the offense [recently],” said junior guard Jack Gordon. “We have a lot of new guys who are getting used to [our system].”
One of the standout additions to the team includes junior college transfer Steven Julian. At 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds, the forward has transitioned nicely into his athletic big man role for the Red, highlighted with an emphatic dunk in a recent game against Duquesne.
“Playing with Steve is always something that’s really fun,” Gordon said. “He’s super athletic and covers up a lot of our mistakes on the defensive end.”
Recent wins against MAC and A-10 opponents Toledo and Duquesne respectively have also underscored another very welcome sign for the Red: the health big man Stone Gettings. After a nagging knee injury that limited the forward toward the beginning of the season, Gettings is finally finding his stride, averaging 11 points over the last four games.
“[My teammates] give me the ball in great positions that make it really easy for me to score,” Gettings said. “All I have to do is make open shots [and] my body has been feeling really good.”
And of course, Morgan is building upon on his illustrious first two years at Cornell. After a milestone-filled sophomore campaign which ended with a declaration and withdrawal from the NBA draft, the guard has begun the season in a not-so-surprising way, once again leading the league in scoring at 22.7 points per game.
And with 24 points against Northeastern, Morgan became the first Cornellian in the modern era to have at least 20 points in six straight games.
For all its upside, Cornell is still constantly changing and adapting as the young season progresses. Case in point: after a dismal shooting performance from the field at Colgate, the Red reconvened and refocused their efforts in practice and has shot 56 percent from the field since then.
“You’re expected to shoot and make shots if you come here even if you’re a big guy,” said head coach Brian Earl. “We’re producing some pretty good shots [in games] and guys are just starting to get used to being open for the shots we practice every day.”
The team is also placing a heavy emphasis on not becoming complacent on the defensive end toward the end of games. While Cornell has racked up three large double digit leads over the course of the season, the young team has also developed a knack of losing those leads in the second half of games, like in games against Binghamton, Toledo, and Duquesne, which all fortunately ended in wins.
“We’re trying to get rid of the volatility,” Earl said. “We’ve had teams come back from us from 20 down and we’ve had some bad losses to teams I thought we could have hung around with them.”
For now, the team is taking it day by day while also keeping the Ivy opener against Penn on Friday, Jan. 12 in the back of its mind.
“We’re just progressing right now trying to get ready ultimately for the Ivy season — that’s what it’s all for,” Gordon said. “Right now we’re just trying to develop and put everything in place so we’re ready come January.”