With two narrow wins over Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend, Cornell men’s basketball moved into a three-way tie for second place in the Ivy League — after being picked to finish sixth in preseason polling.
Although identical in their ultimate outcomes, the two games were won very differently: In one, star senior forward Matt Morgan’s record-setting night propelled the Red to a close victory. In the win over the Crimson, stifling defense and a team effort earned the Red a huge second-half comeback, moving Cornell’s Ivy record to 4-2.
Morgan exploded for a career-high 41 points against Dartmouth on Friday, coming just six points shy of the all-time Cornell single-game scoring record. It was the most points ever scored by an individual in Dartmouth’s Leede Arena and the first time a Cornell player has scored 40 or more points in 59 years. The remarkable scoring display was equally distributed between halves with Morgan torching Dartmouth for 20 and 21 in each half.
Morgan shot an incredibly efficient 9 of 11 from beyond the arc, 13-17 from the field and 6-6 from the free throw line to put together the best game of his already-remarkable senior campaign. The nine three-pointers tied the school record, which had already been set by none other than Morgan. Like the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry, Morgan’s top three-point competition is himself.
“He weaved around defenders like traffic cones out there and hit big shot after big shot for us down the stretch,” said assistant coach Alex Mumphard about Morgan’s performance. “We all know what he’s capable of … the kid’s explosive.”
Explosive is an especially apt descriptor for one sequence during which Morgan hit three three-pointers in a span of just 79 seconds.
Despite Morgan’s heroics, Dartmouth hung close, largely due to Chris Knight’s career-high 27 points. Dartmouth actually had a good look to force overtime, but Brendan Barry’s three-pointer clanged off the front rim as time expired, sealing the 83-80 victory for Cornell.
On the flip side, Saturday’s upset win over Harvard was not as pretty. The Red clawed its way back after trailing by as many as 13 points, capitalizing on 24 Harvard turnovers. It was Cornell’s best defensive game of the season and the Red consistently made Harvard’s scorers uncomfortable, refusing to give away easy buckets.
Cornell trailed by 13 at halftime and outscored the Crimson, 46-27, in the final 20 minutes, a night after Harvard beat Columbia in a highlight-laden triple-overtime contest.
— The Ivy League (@IvyLeague) February 10, 2019
The scoring was also distributed between more players for Cornell as compared to the night prior, with Harvard limiting Morgan to a relatively slow scoring night. Jimmy Boeheim led the team with 16 points including a career-high four three-pointers.
Morgan contributed 15 points to extend his streak of consecutive games in double-figure scoring to 73 games. Junior Josh Warren added 14 points and senior Steven Julian ripped down a game-high eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Morgan finished the night with 2,162 career points, passing Dartmouth’s Jim Barton for second on the Ivy League’s all-time scoring list.
The Red will look to continue its hot streak against Brown this Friday at Newman Arena.