While most of the Cornell community has been enjoying their winter break at home, men’s basketball looked to continue its success from the end of 2021 into the new year. In many ways, it has –– the Red remains undefeated in Newman Arena –– however, Cornell sits at 2-3 in conference play, looking to find its way back to the top of the table.
The Red (10-6, 2-3 Ivy) ended its non-conference campaign by heading north to Syracuse to face the Orange (9-10, 3-5 ACC) at the Carrier Dome in front of over 15,000 fans. While the Orange jumped out to an early 17-2 lead, fast play by Cornell helped it go on its own 14-4 run to finish out the half down three points.
Unfortunately for the Red, the Orange then went on its own high-scoring run, eventually taking the game 68-80. Cornell was led by sophomore forward Keller Boothby’s 20 points, and Syracuse was led by a pair of brothers that Cornell fans should be quite familiar with.
Syracuse’s Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim combined for 38 points on the night. Jimmy Boeheim, a Cornell grad and former star for the Red, joined the Orange as a graduate student after gaining an extra year of eligibility due to the Ivy League canceling sports during his senior year. He elected to play at Syracuse, joining his brother Buddy and his hall-of-fame father, coach Jim Boeheim.
“It was fun playing against him,” said coach Brian Earl of Jimmy Boeheim. “We wanted to win the game, obviously, but we still remain close with him. We definitely had a good scouting report on him. But all in all, it’s just one of those situations that you look back at more fondly than when you’re in the moment.”
Five games into its 2022 Ivy campaign, the Red currently sits at 11th in the nation in scoring and has already surpassed its win total from 2019-20, the last time it competed. The Red runs a very deep rotation, oftentimes getting over ten players quality minutes throughout the game.
“With the COVID year off, we’ve had time to experiment,” Earl said of Cornell’s offensive strategy. “With the new team we have, it made sense to try and play in a particular way where we can push the pace a little bit, which requires getting a lot of contributions from a lot of people.”
Cornell has found home wins against Harvard (10-6, 2-2 Ivy) and Dartmouth (4-12, 1-4), but it has fallen on the road to Penn (7-12, 4-2), Yale (8-9, 2-1) and Princeton (15-3, 5-0).
“We’re trying to figure that out,” Earl said. “You can say we’re good at home, but I look at it more that we are defeated a lot on the road, so obviously we have to do better.” For the team, the crowd has been a big part of its success. “There’s a lot of people who enjoy getting out there and getting vocal when we start to play well. However, the team has to execute in more difficult circumstances, which we haven’t been able to do really.”
This was most evident during Cornell’s game against Princeton, when the Red gave up an 18 point lead on the road to the league’s first place team and suffered a heart-crushing three point buzzer beater, ultimately losing 72-70.
While the Red’s volatile style of play leads to some blowout scores and big runs, the team has proven that they are capable of hanging in there with the best. This should make it a formidable team as it looks forward to the second half of conference play, where it will try to finish in the top half of the league for an opportunity to compete in Ivy Madness.
The Red will have an opportunity to bring its league record back to .500 when it faces Brown (10-11, 2-4) at 4 p.m. on Saturday in Providence, RI.