Junior Matt Morgan had a sensational performance for the Cornell men’s basketball team in a must-win against Harvard on Friday.
Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough.
The guard willed the game into overtime with a traditional three-point play at the end of regulation and tied his career-high with 34 points, but the Red (11-15, 5-8 Ivy) faltered down the stretch against a Harvard squad (16-12, 11-2) which has now tied with Penn as the top seeded team in the conference with its 98-88 win.
“It was a tough game, and our guys gave a great effort, but we ran out of gas there at the end,” said head coach Brian Earl. “It was a difficult loss, but when guys are playing 50 minutes and still giving the effort they gave, there’s a lot to be proud of.”
Cornell staged its defense well for much of the extra time, but the squad struggled to find enough offense down the stretch as Harvard outscored the Red 10 -1 in in the second overtime period.
“The guys were definitely tired, Harvard jumped into a zone, and we had to make and take a couple shots that we passing up earlier, so we felt it a little bit down the stretch,” Earl said.
Morgan was sensational throughout the game and matched a previous career high of 34 points to bear the brunt of the offense. The guard shot an efficient 54 percent from the field and hit six three-pointers on a 43 percent clip, but rimmed out a long potential game winning three at the end of the first overtime.
“We leaned on [Morgan] a lot tonight on the offensive end, and he almost won it for us with that deep three, but sometimes they just don’t fall,” Earl said. “He’s a special talent with what he can do on and off the ball, and what he did tonight was impressive.”
Junior Stone Gettings had 23 points and six rebounds to bear some of the offensive burden, but the forward fouled out with three minutes in overtime to make it the Matt Morgan show the rest of the way. Junior Steven Julian was the third Red player in double figures and continued to showcase his recent increased offensive role with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
“Stone has the ball a lot for a guy his size … and for him to go out down the stretch, it really [hurt] us at the very end,” Earl said.
Whereas Cornell was able to redress its first half shooting woes at the free throw line, the narrative reversed in the final minutes of the game. The Red gave up seven free throws in the final minute to allow the Crimson to seal the game at the charity stripe.
Despite the loss, Cornell still finds itself in the running for a postseason conference tournament berth, with the squad currently tied for fourth place with Columbia and Princeton following a Princeton win against Brown yesterday and Columbia loss to Dartmouth tonight. The Red now faces two scenarios in which it can secure the playoff spot.
In the first scenario, Cornell will need to secure a win in its season closer against conference bottom-dweller Dartmouth tomorrow and hope for a Princeton loss against third seed Yale and Columbia loss against this same Harvard team. The second, more unlikely scenario has losses for all three teams and a Brown win against Penn to create a four-way tie in which the Red holds the tiebreaker.
“Clearly Dartmouth is still fighting after its win against Columbia tonight … so we just have to make sure we have a good effort after an exhausting bus ride [tonight],” Earl said. “Princeton’s still in it, Columbia’s still in it [and] we just have to hope the chips will fall into place.”
Tip off against Dartmouth will be on Saturday at 7 p.m.