With a 21 point lead in the second half of a Sunday morning road game, men’s basketball seemed poised to notch an easy and impressive win over Ivy rival Brown. Cornell allowed Brown to come all the way back, but staved off the Bears behind Senior Kobe Dickson’s second-effort putback layup with a tenth of a second left to go that secured a 72-70 win for the Red.
For Brown (10-5, 2-12 Ivy), it was the third loss in the last four games that was decided by one possession, and for Cornell (11-6, 3-3), it was the first victory in the team’s last six games on the road.
“It’s a relief,” said head coach Brian Earl of the last-second victory. “We have trouble with runs and stopping teams at the end. We looked good, then things went downhill, so it was definitely a relief to win the game.”
Although Brown led off the game with a three-pointer, Cornell quickly fought back and went on an 11-0 run, gaining an early advantage that the Red would never vanquish. The Red jumped to a 43-25 first half lead by playing its patented brand of fast-paced, transition basketball. It was able to connect on 53% of its field goals in the first half, but shot a measly 23% from the three-point arc, foreshadowing some of its future shooting woes.
In the second half, Brown’s defensive adjustments proved paramount as it was able to claw back to a tie by limiting the Red to a field goal percentage of under 30%. The Red was a painful 1 for 11 from behind the arc in the second half. Despite the poor shooting numbers in the second half, the Red still made the shots that counted the most down the stretch and capitalized at the free throw line, going 20 for 21 from the charity stripe – a much more impressive scoreline than Brown’s 17 for 25. Cornell also played great defense, holding the Bears to a field goal percentage of 42% for the entire game.
“Once they tied the game, we had to mix things up,” Earl said. “We played some zone to change the face of the game and our guys did a great job with that.”
Three seniors made huge contributions towards the win, providing poise in the thrilling matchup. Dean Noll led the Red in three categories with 16 points, including nine from the line, four assists and seven rebounds, including three on the offensive glass. Sarju Patel was not far behind, with 14 points and six rebounds, also with three offensively. Finally, Kobe Dickson, who eventually put the game away with his offensive rebound and buzzer beater, finished the day with nine points and six rebounds.
“It started getting physical in the second half. They tried to slow us down and we made our foul shots,” Earl said. “It was probably the first time a lot of these guys have taken pressure shots in their careers.”
Down the stretch, the Red was able to add to its quickly-shrinking lead due to Noll and Patel’s abilities to get to the free throw line and junior Jordan Jones’ ability to make clutch baskets with the game on the line.
“We’re trying to get the young guys to understand how hard it is to win college basketball games,” Earl said. “For the upperclassmen, we make sure that they’re letting the younger guys know that we’re expecting them to be able to help as much.”
The Red will have six days to rest before it hosts two Ivy rivals this weekend. On Friday, it will face off against league-leading Princeton (15-4, 4-1 Ivy), who completed an 18 point second half comeback off of a buzzer-beater of their own against Cornell earlier this month. The Tigers, who are coming off their first loss in conference play against Yale (10-9, 4-1), will tip off against the Red at 7 p.m. in Newman Arena. On Saturday, the Red will get a second chance at beating Penn (8-12, 5-2). Tip-off in that game is set for 6 p.m.