On Saturday, March 4, men’s basketball (17-10, 7-7 Ivy) played its final game of the regular season against Columbia (7-22, 2-12 Ivy). While the Lions had already been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, this game had significant implications for the Red — the team needed a win along with a Brown loss to clinch the fourth seed in the Ivy Madness tournament.
Prior to the game, Cornell honored its three seniors: guard Greg Dolan, forward Marcus Filien and forward Chuks Uzoka. On March 7, Dolan was selected as part of the Second Team All-Ivy.
Going into the game, the team was short-handed, with junior guard Max Watson and sophomore forward Guy Ragland Jr. listed as inactive prior to tipoff. Despite the shortened roster, sophomore guard Nazir Williams knocked down a three-pointer and gave the Red an early 3-0 lead.
In the opening minutes of the game, Cornell did a solid job on the defensive end, forcing Columbia deep into the shot clock. During this stretch, the Red was also able to force two turnovers. This proved to be a key for Cornell throughout the game, finishing with 19 points off turnovers.
With the Red leading 17-12 with 14:04 remaining in the half, the team went on a 19-4 run, ballooning its lead to 20 points. One major contributor to this run was sophomore forward Chris Cain. Cain, who averages two points per game on the season, scored seven of the 19 points, finishing the game with a career high 11.
After Dolan made a layup and gave Cornell a 40-18 lead, the Lions struck back with an offensive outburst of its own, scoring 16 unanswered points and cutting the deficit to six points. Cornell went into halftime up, 45-39.
“We got a little cautious when we got the 20 point lead, cautious in our pace and reckless in control of the ball on defense,” said head coach Brian Earl.
Cornell began the second half on an 11-2 run, hitting its first five field goal attempts of the half. Dolan was a big reason the Red was able to pull away in the game by working his way into the paint and igniting the team’s transition offense. He finished the game with 17 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“We reset at halftime and made sure we were pushing the pace and playing with energy, and I think we did a good job of that,” Earl said.
With 6:10 remaining in the game, Williams knocked down a free throw to give the Red a 23 point lead, its largest of the game. Cornell won by a final score of 87-73.
A big contributor for the Red was junior forward Sean Hansen. Despite being taken out of the previous game against Yale due to injury, Hansen was able to dominate on both sides of the ball. He finished the game with 10 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and a block.
“Everyone gets injured and it’s rough to get pulled out of the game for it, but it just made me more angry and want to come back and play,” Hansen said.
While the team enjoyed securing the win on senior day, it still needed Yale to take down Brown in order to clinch a berth to Ivy Madness. Despite the Bears getting a three-point lead early in the second half, the Bulldogs prevailed by a score of 84-75.
Cornell will continue its season on March 11 at 11 a.m. when it travels to Princeton, New Jersey to take on Yale in Jadwin Gymnasium. The game can be watched on ESPNU. If the Red wins that game, the team will play the winner of Princeton vs. Penn in the Ivy League championship game the following day at noon on ESPN2.