After a win against Princeton and a hard-fought loss to Penn, the Red (12-7, 4-4 Ivy) finds itself in fourth place in the Ivy League. If it maintains its fourth place position, the Red would qualify for the postseason tournament, where it would have a chance to win its first Ivy League title since 2010.
The Red hosted two of the Ivy’s top three teams: the Princeton Tigers (16-5, 6-2 Ivy) and the Penn Quakers (10-12, 7-2 Ivy). On Friday, Cornell faced Princeton with hopes of avenging last month’s matchup where the Tigers won off a last second buzzer beater. In the first 15 minutes, no team led by more than two possessions. However, Cornell stuck to its proven offensive strategy, playing in fast transition to grow an early lead 83-88 victory.
With ten minutes remaining, the Red was up by ten points, and Princeton found itself battling back, reminiscent of its previous comeback win against the Red. With two minutes left, the Tigers took the lead for the first time in the second half.
However, this time the Red held on thanks to a three-pointer by sophomore forward Keller Boothby and great free throw shooting from sophomore guard Chris Manon and senior guard Dean Noll.
“I think we’re learning how to play this way a bit,” said head coach Brian Earl. “With how fast we play, there are really short possessions, so no lead is safe. We practice knowing the game is going to be volatile. It’s just about being familiar with the flow of the game.”
Princeton’s two-headed monster, junior forward Tosan Evbuomwan and senior guard Ethan Wright, scored a combined 53 points and 15 rebounds. However, their performance was not enough to overtake the Red’s balanced offensive attack. All five Cornell starters scored double digits, including a career high 22 points from Manon.
Defensively, the Red was able to limit Princeton to a 46% field goal percentage and a 25% three-point field goal percentage, with 11 total forced turnovers.
Against Penn, the Red found another battle, but this time found itself on the other side of just coming up short of a miraculous comeback.
“Early on, we got a little desperate against Penn and found ourselves in a pit,” Earl said. “We missed a lot of open shots and found ourselves in a hole in the middle of the second half. We had to do a gut check and see what we were made of. If we’re gonna go down, we’re gonna go down playing.”
With just under nine minutes left in regulation, the Red was down 21 points, and it seemed like a blowout was looming. However, the Red turned the tides and began whittling down the lead through fastbreak layups, three-pointers and solid free throw shooting. With 14 seconds on the clock, the Red was only down by three points, but Penn ultimately iced the game at the end with perfect free throw shooting, winning 73-68.
“We fought to the end and put a lot of pressure on them to actually win that game,” Earl said. “We didn’t love our skill performances, but I definitely saw fight in them.”
Manon led both teams in scoring with 20 points, earning him Ivy Rookie of the Week. He was joined by senior guard Dean Noll, who had 19 points of his own, shooting an impressive 10 for 11 from the free throw line.
“It’s important to have young guys like Chris contributing in this way,” Earl said. “As guys get older, they tend to mature. He had a great weekend, but that’s what has to happen. You have to go through tough experiences to truly be experienced, and I hope he can stick with it.”
The Red will recalibrate and turn its sights to Columbia (4-16, 1-7 Ivy) for a 5 p.m. showdown at Newman Arena on Feb. 9 before it hosts Brown (11-13, 3-6 Ivy) at 2 p.m. on Saturday.