Cornell men’s basketball was handed its fifth consecutive loss Saturday in a 68-66 overtime defeat to Coppin State. While the Red’s 1-5 record early in the year may not look promising for a team that has the potential to compete for an Ivy League crown, three of the team’s losses have been decided by one possession.
“It is still early in the season, and we are still learning how to win games and hold onto leads,” said head coach Brian Earl. “We understand that we have lost three games by a total of four points and are one possession away in each of them from being above .500, but it hurts because the only stat that matters is that we are 1-5.”
A theme through the first six games for the Red is its cold shooting from the field. Despite getting wide-open 3-point looks, the team has been unable to convert its attempts from behind the arc.
This problem continued Saturday night, as Cornell shot 7 of 34 from deep and was just 1 of 10 in the second half from 3-point range.
“We are just focused on the quality of shots that we are getting for our players,” Earl said. “If you look at the shots from this game, we are getting wide-open 3-point shots; we knew where our shots would come from, we exploited the defense, but we ultimately could not make them when it mattered most.”
While the final result was not ideal for a Cornell squad desperate for non-conference wins, it not only overcame a 14-point deficit, but actually led by five points with 2:41 left to play.
The teams traded baskets down the stretch, and Cornell took a 58-56 lead with 43 seconds left on a Jordan Jones three, but the Eagles responded with a jumper by Kamar McKnight.
Junior forward Jimmy Boeheim had a shot for the win at the buzzer, but he was not able to make the leaner and the game went to overtime.
“That is the position you want to be put in as a player,” Boeheim said. “Unfortunately, I could not get it done at the buzzer, but I got a decent look, and next time I just have to get it to fall.”
The Red and the Eagles led at different points in the overtime session, but it was the home team who would escape with their second victory of the season. Sophomore guard Dean Noll took a 3-pointer with Cornell trailing by two at the end of the overtime period, but Noll missed, got his own rebound and then missed again, preserving Coppin State’s two-point advantage as the final horn sounded.
Cornell relied heavily on Boeheim who ended the night with 25 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. The Red would not have been in the game down the stretch if not for Boeheim, as he had 20 points and 14 rebounds in the second half and overtime.
“My coaches have been on me about getting more rebounds, and I know that I need to do that in order for us to be more successful,” Boeheim said. “So, it is just a facet of my game that I have been working on lately, and I will continue to try to improve in that area moving forward.”
He was aided by strong all-around play by senior forward Josh Warren, who had nine points, nine assists, and seven rebounds.
“I like to pass first, but I feel like especially in these close games that I need to step up my scoring more,” Warren said. “Recently, I haven’t had great scoring games, but I know that I need to score better down the stretch.”
Cornell will look to pick up its second victory of 2019-20 when it concludes its four-game road trip Tuesday in Annapolis as the Red travels to face Navy. Last season, the Red defeated the Midshipmen, 61-50, in Ithaca behind 27 points from Matt Morgan.