Boris Tsang/Sun File Photo

Junior guard Greg Dolan scored 12 points against Canisius, going 5-of-5 from the field.

December 1, 2021

Men’s Basketball Stays Hot With Wins Over St. Francis (PA) and Canisius College

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After two key wins against Saint Francis (PA) and Canisius College, the Cornell men’s basketball team is off to a 6-1 start for the first time since 1967. 

The Red started off its Thanksgiving break by hosting St. Francis (2-3, 0-0 NEC) last Wednesday, looking to improve to 5-1 on the year. Against the Red Flash, Cornell had its most successful outing from beyond the arc, draining 16 3-pointers en route to a 93-80 victory.

Cornell was able to keep up its fast pace, scoring an impressive 28 points off of fastbreaks. Even more impressive was the Red’s ability to showcase its range in this game, including a few transition 3-pointers that mirrored modern NBA squads.

The Red shot 54.6 percent from the field and 45.7 percent from the 3-point line. Sophomore Keller Boothby led the team in threes made by converting five of his eight attempts. Freshman Nazir Williams posted a game-high 21 points, shooting 70 percent from the field. Boothby and Williams both came off the bench in this game and heavily contributed to Cornell’s season-high 61 bench points, outscoring their starters by 29 points.

“Our staff does a great job of getting in with the guys and making sure they get extra shots up,” said Head Coach Brian Earl. “It’s a lot of hard work by the players too, because they’re the guys that make the shots. We’ve got to be prepared for the nights where we’re gonna miss, but it’s been nice to see them going in the last two games.”

Cornell’s multifaceted play also led to the team drawing more fouls in the second half as the Red Flash had more difficulty guarding the Red’s hot playmakers. The Red went to the free throw line 15 times in the second half and found 10 points from the charity stripe.

Williams was named Ivy Rookie of the Week on Nov. 29 after impactful performances off the bench against Penn State and St. Francis. The Nyack, New York, native shot 12-for-12 from the foul line and 62.5 percent from the field.

“He had a good week,” Earl said of Williams. “We’re a little bit on the young side, so a lot of young guys are contributing. He’s coming in and doing his job, and it’s good to see that when he’s called upon he’s able to give us everything he’s got.”

Following its fifth victory, the Red then travelled to Buffalo, New York, on Monday night for a battle with Canisius (2-5, 0-0 MAAC). Senior forward Kobe Dickson scored 17, junior forward Jordan Jones added 14 and the Red shot 50 percent (11-of-22) from 3-point range to secure an 89-75 win on the road. 

Junior guard Greg Dolan laid in the first basket of the game, and Cornell led from start to finish as the team was scorching hot from the field. Dolan recorded 12 points and six rebounds, senior guard Sarju Patel tallied 13 points and sophomore forward Sean Hansen came off the bench to score 10. As a unit, the Red converted 61.8 percent (34-for-55) of its looks, marking the team’s best shooting performance of the season. 

Cornell is developing an identity as a fast-paced team that can light up the scoreboard from long range and hold its own inside the paint. The Red averages 86.7 points per game (13th in NCAA) and is 26th in offensive possessions per game. 

Meanwhile, free throw shooting has been a pitfall for the Red. Against Canisius, the Red only shot 10-of-17 from the line. On the season, Cornell is shooting 64 percent (96-of-150) from the charity stripe, 313th among D-1 teams. This could hamper the team late in close games moving forward, but so far, the Red has found ways to make up for points left at the foul line. In addition to reliable perimeter shooting, the Red scored 14 points on the fast break, added 46 points in the paint and out-rebounded the Golden Griffins, 37-31. 

The Red is only one game away from matching its win total in 2019, its last season of competition. Cornell’s ability to play fast and willingness to take tough shots have played a critical role in its success so far.

Elsewhere in the Ivy League, Harvard (5-2), Princeton (5-2) and Dartmouth (3-1) appear to be the primary competition as the Red gears up to make a run for the conference crown. This Friday, Cornell will look to keep rolling in non-conference play against the Coppin State Eagles.  

The Eagles (1-9, 0-0 MEAC) arrive in Ithaca after dropping three consecutive games by three points or fewer: 65-62 at Cleveland State, 76-75 at Canisius and 70-68 at East Carolina. Fans should prepare for a 3-point shootout as the visitors are second in the nation in three point attempts, though they’ve converted just 27.5 percent (75-of-273) from deep. 

Three players average double-digits for the Eagles — point guard Jesse Zarzuela (13.3 points, 3.3 assists), forward Tyree Corbett (11.1 points, 6.0 rebounds) and forward Nendah Tarke (11.1 points, 6.2 rebounds). In the last meeting between the two teams on Nov. 23, 2019, Coppin State outlasted Cornell 68-66. The Red will attempt to avoid that same fate when it hosts the Eagles this Friday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Newman Arena.