On Friday, Feb. 18 and Saturday, Feb. 19, men’s basketball (16-9, 6-6 Ivy) squared off against Dartmouth (9-17, 5-7 Ivy) and Harvard (14-12, 5-7 Ivy). After losing its previous three matchups, this was a crucial weekend for the Red. With only 14 games in the conference season, every win is invaluable in securing a spot in the Ivy Madness Conference tournament.
After Dartmouth kicked off the scoring with a three-point shot, Cornell responded immediately with a three-pointer, courtesy of junior forward Sean Hansen. In the next few minutes, the Big Green continued to thrive off of shots behind the arc, going three for five from deep, enroute to a 13-7 Dartmouth lead with 15:22 remaining in the opening half.
A couple minutes later, the Red tied the game at 15 apiece. Following this, Cornell went on a 10-2 run — this included layups from senior captain Greg Dolan and sophomore guard Nazir Williams, along with three pointers from Hansen and Williams.
However, this momentum did not last long, with the Big Green scoring the next 11 points over a three minute span, taking a three point lead.
It was a back-and-forth end to the first half, with three lead changes and a tie. The end of the half finished with a buzzer beater by Williams. The shot fell through the basket after bouncing high off the rim, sending the crowd into a frenzy. The Red went into halftime leading, 45-39.
Williams was the best player on the court during the opening half, scoring 18 points. He finished the game with 27, along with four rebounds, six assists and three steals.
“It was his first game back when we played Brown and he felt a little bit of urgency to try and get back into the flow of things. This game he took what came to him… he was very aware of what was needed in most every possession,” said head coach Brian Earl.
In the first minute of the second half, the Big Green scored six unanswered points, quickly tying the game. The next 19 combined points were all scored in the paint. During this stretch, there were three ties and two lead changes.
The score was very tight for the remainder of the second half, with no team leading by more than six. The Red had a chance to seal the game when it was up 76-71 with 3:12 remaining, but two free throws and a three-pointer from the Big Green knotted the game up at 76, forcing Earl to call timeout. Coming out of the timeout, the ball fell into the hands of Hansen, who was able to knock down a clutch three-pointer to give the Red the lead.
“These guys have the green light… Sean works on his shot a lot… he takes enough that he deserves to shoot a big one,” Earl said.
Dartmouth once again was able to tie the game at 80 in the final seconds of regulation, forcing the game into overtime.
Junior guard Chris Manon started overtime off with a layup, giving the Red a lead it did not give up. This set the tone for the extra period, with Cornell holding Dartmouth to just three points and outscoring it, 15-3.
“That was probably our best stretch of defense… we just got to keep it going to keep our man in front and make them take the shot we want them to take,” Williams said.
The following day, the Red tipped off against Harvard. The Crimson came out of the gate hot, quickly jumping out to a 6-0 lead.
Cornell responded with a 9-0 run, with baskets coming from Manon, junior guard Max Watson and junior forward Keller Boothby. Harvard regained the lead soon after this and did not give it up for the remainder of the game.
From the start, Cornell had difficulty dealing with the Crimson’s physicality. Harvard was able to work effectively in the interior, scoring 38 points in the paint during the game. The Crimson also capitalized on sloppy offense from the Red, scoring 19 points off turnovers.
At the start of the second half, it seemed as if the Red had figured something out, cutting Harvard’s lead to two with 17:44 remaining. The Crimson, however, went on a 31-16 run to close out the game, winning by a score of 73-56.
With two games left in the season, Cornell is currently tied for fourth place in the Ivy League. If the Red is able to win out, it can clinch fourth place and a berth to Ivy Madness.
Cornell’s next game is on Saturday, Feb. 25 when it takes on Yale (18-7, 8-4 Ivy) in New Haven, Connecticut in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.