In its Ivy League home opener, the Red defeated in-state rival Columbia 62-50, marking Cornell’s first victory over a Division I opponent in nearly three months.
The win came just seven days after losing to the same Columbia team 75-61 in New York City. But in the second edition of the series, the Red was able to outscore the visitors 40-26 in the second half to even its league record at 1-1.
“I thought that we did a good job of coming back from last week,” said Head Coach Brian Earl. “I was proud of our team’s effort … It was a good win — we’ve had a tough time this year winning games, so it was nice to get one under our belts.”
The Red shot 56 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range in the second half en route to the victory. In addition to efficient shooting after halftime, the home team only turned the ball over once in the final 20 minutes.
“We played a little faster in the second half, and we stepped up, took the shots that we got,” Earl said. “Obviously, when the ball goes in, it is helpful, and it has been a while since that has happened. But we’ve been getting open shots the entire season, so it was nice to see them finally go in.”
Cornell was fueled by 18 points and 10 rebounds from junior forward Jimmy Boeheim, as well as 13 points and 8 rebounds from junior guard Terrance McBride. Senior forward Josh Warren also added 11 points, six assists and four rebounds.
“Tonight, we were all really focused on hitting the boards hard,” Boeheim said. “We all wanted to rebound together, and I think that this aspect of the game has become more natural for all of us as this season has progressed.”
Columbia was led in scoring by senior guard Mike Smith, who came into the evening as the Ivy League’s leading scorer with 21 points per game. But on Saturday, he was limited to just 15 points, making five out of his 23 shots.
Cornell junior guard Bryan Knapp scored 10 points, but primarily focused on defending Smith and limiting his touches.
“We knew that if we could shut down Smith we would have a very good chance of winning this game,” Knapp said. “The game plan for the last five minutes was for me to do everything in my ability to not let him get the ball. So that’s what I did.”
After shooting 40 percent from the field in the first half, the visitors were not able to sustain the same success in the latter part of the tilt — making just nine of 35 shot attempts in the second half, including going 3-of-14 from the three down the stretch.
In last Saturday’s match in Harlem, Columbia shot 61 percent from the field in the first half and 51 percent overall in the game, but their hot shooting did not make the 225-mile trip with them to upstate New York. While the Lions relied on freshman forward Jack Forrest’s 23 points to carry them offensively seven days ago, Forrest scored just seven points in Ithaca.
Forrest was limited in his playing time after making two fouls early in the game. He spent 18 minutes on the bench in the first half of the tilt.
Recently, Earl has been tinkering with his starting lineup and rotations as the team heads into the last 12 games of the season — all of which are Ivy matchups. Earl utilized nine players over the weekend, including having freshman guard Greg Dolan in the game down the stretch.
Dolan, who played 13 minutes in the second half, ended the game with five points and two assists, all of which came in the final 20 minutes.
The Columbia series split marked the third consecutive season that the two New York foes each won its own home game.
Cornell will look to get above .500 in Ivy League play when the Red travels to Brown on Friday and Yale on Saturday. Last season, the Red lost to both schools on the New England road trip.