After an upset win against Yale (17-11, 11-3 Ivy), the Red found itself with its fate in its own hands during one of the most competitive years in Ivy League history. Just one game in front of Harvard (13-13, 5-9 Ivy), Cornell (15-10, 7-7 Ivy) had to beat Columbia (4-22, 1-13 Ivy) to enter the Ivy League tournament.
Right out of the gate, the Red found its groove: leading 16-5 after less than nine minutes. Cornell would go into halftime with an 18 point lead and never see it go lower than a 14 point difference. The Red kept control of the entire game, en route to securing fourth place in the Ivies.
“We’re really working hard in practice, trying to keep the pace as fast as we’ve gone the whole season but then doing multiple situations where you know how to protect the lead and maybe downshift when it’s time to to win a game,” said Head Coach Brian Earl. “We did an okay job of that against Columbia, but it’s hard to know when to really make that switch. Thankfully, our guys are starting to pick up on it.”
The team shot a whopping 48.3 percent from the three-point range, including three makes on four attempts from sophomore forward Keller Boothby and three makes on five attempts from senior guard Sarju Patel. Patel tied for the team high with senior guard Dean Noll and junior guard Greg Dolan, who scored 12 points each, followed by Boothby, who had 11 points.
The Red held Columbia to a 39 percent field goal percentage without any fastbreak points. Cornell also outrebounded the Lions with 16 points off fastbreaks.
Against Princeton, the Red will be challenged again. Cornell was unable to secure a comeback during their previous game earlier in the year. The Red blew an 18 point lead in the second half and lost to a buzzer-beating three pointer. In their second matchup, the Red gave up a ten point lead and found itself behind, but battled to secure a victory at the end. Since losing to Cornell, Princeton has won all of their games: beating No. 2 Yale by six points and smashing No. 3 Penn by 23 points last week.
“We need to have some good practices and understand how we’re going to try to beat Princeton,” Earl said. “They’ve improved a lot as well and really have a lot of seasoned players who’ve battled through the rest of the season to sweep from our game forward. We can’t think about our past experiences with them and have any sort of confidence or overconfidence – we’re just trying to figure out a way to hang with them and make sure that we make it as close as we did the first two times.”
The Red will travel to Cambridge, Massachusetts for the two-day Ivy League Tournament, fighting for an entry into the NCAA tournament. They will face Princeton at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 12. If the Red can find victory, it will await the winner of Penn vs. Yale for a matchup at 12 p.m. on Sunday for a chance at the Ivy League crown.