Coming off of a heartbreaking loss at Columbia last weekend, the Red got back into the win column, defeating reigning Ivy League champion Penn, 80-71 — Cornell’s first victory over the Quakers in teams’ last 12 meetings.
The Red fell behind early, struggling to find an offensive rhythm due to Penn’s strong defensive effort. The squad relied on junior forward Josh Warren in the first half, as the Pennsylvania native scored 15 of his 19 total points before halftime.
“We have a lot of players that are able to put up good numbers, so whenever one person or a couple of people aren’t getting their shots to fall, someone is always able to step up,” Warren said. “So, today, that was just me in the first half.”
The first half consisted of sloppy play on both sides including 12 turnovers by former Cornell coach Steve Donahue’s Quakers and just six made free throws on 14 attempts from the two teams combined. Additionally, the Quakers were able to collect seven more rebounds than the Red.
Penn’s ability to shut down Cornell’s all-time leading scorer, senior Matt Morgan, took a toll on the Red’s offensive capabilities. With Morgan unable to establish his presence, the Red went on an eight-minute stretch during the first half without a made field goal.
As the Quakers dominated defensively and on the boards, the road team took a 37-30 advantage into the halftime break behind double-figure scoring from Bryce Washington and Devon Goodman.
But despite a slow first frame from Morgan, the senior guard elevated his level of play in the second half to lead the Red to its second Ivy League victory of the season.
Morgan, who only attempted four shots in the first half, scored 19 of his 25 points in the second, controlling the offense and pace of the game down the stretch. With the scoring outburst, Morgan extended his consecutive games scoring in double figures streak to 70, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time NCAA list.
“In the first half, they had us a little bit stagnant on offense because they had a really good defensive scheme against us,” Morgan said. “But as the game progressed, we started to figure things out. In the second half, it came down to me making plays, but I couldn’t have made those plays without my teammates. Also, it started on the defensive end for us. As long as we play good defense, we will be fine.”
Cornell began the second half on a 13-1 run, but Penn was able to climb back into the back-and-forth game, which saw the Quakers leading 71-70 with 2:28 left. But the Red scored 10 unanswered points to clinch the victory.
“We got into halftime and we discussed what was going to beat Penn, and that it wasn’t going to be our normal stuff,” said head coach Brian Earl. “After we got a few uncontested baskets, our guys took over and figured out what it took to beat this team.”
Penn was led by junior forward AJ Brodeur, who scored 17 points and collected 16 rebounds, and freshman forward Michael Wang, who scored all 16 of his points in the second half.