A Big Red Upset Bid Falls Short
Despite a valiant effort to stay with Syracuse for more than 20 minutes, Cornell eventually let the game slip away, as the Orange outscored the Big Red 37-14 during the final 19 minutes for a 67-46 victory at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.
Although the score indicates another blowout against a top tier program, the game was actually much closer than these final numbers, but the same problems plagued Cornell. Mainly, the Big Red isn’t big enough to match up inside against teams such as Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, and now Syracuse. This weekend, Cornell was out-rebounded 48-27, while the Orange’s 17 offensive rebounds nearly matched the Big Red’s defensive total of 18. In addition, the squad was out-rebounded 48-24 against the Yellow Jackets and 47-31 in its matchup with the Pitt Panthers.
Syracuse utilized this weakness in Cornell to exploit the team’s offense for the lowest Big Red point total this season. The Orange played a zone, yet added lots of pressure and pressed out on the perimeter past the three-point line due to Cornell’s lack of an inside offensive game. The Big Red tried to dish the ball to David Onuorah in the post a few times, but the larger Syracuse forwards prevented the junior from maneuvering in the paint.
The Orange also gave Cornell the inside tract on several occasions to the bucket, yet led them into the heart of the zone where Syracuse defenders preyed, which resulted in nine blocks for the Orange. Tyler Lydon led this effort off the bench with a game high four, and Tyler Roberson chipped in two key blocks in the paint.
Cornell still managed to work the ball around and found open men on the wings, but the team’s shooting was streaky, especially down the stretch. The Big Red shot 32 percent from the floor and drilled only 6-of-25 shots from beyond the arc. However, the team’s defense played very well against the Syracuse shooters, as the Orange continually relied on the long ball to open up the rest of its offense. Cornell held Syracuse to just 7-of-21 shooting from three-point land, yet the Orange’s big advantage down low allowed them to convert on 17 second chance buckets.
Even with Syracuse’s huge advantage in size, the Big Red showed grit and battled to stay in the game for more than half of the contest. In fact, after falling behind 6-2 to open play, Cornell rallied back thanks to an 8-1 run to take its first lead. This same pattern occurred once more in the first half when the Orange held the Big Red scoreless for just over seven minutes, but the squad fought to come within four points at the break.
Cornell pushed the ball in transition due to its outstanding defensive effort, and junior Robert Hatter drained a couple of important three pointers, while making some athletic moves to the basket to convert or draw fouls. One of his biggest plays came at the start of the second half after a Big Red three – Hatter successfully cashed in on an and-one after a nice move to the hoop, which put Cornell in front 32-30. Hatter led Big Red players with 14 points and added three rebounds, three assists, and four steals, reaching double figures for the ninth time in 10 games. Classmate Darryl Smith also chipped in several key plays off the bench, including a bucket beyond the arc to end the first 20 minutes. Smith finished with seven points, four assists, and two rebounds.
Syracuse followed Cornell’s 6-0 run to begin the second half with a 27-5 charge over a span of 13 minutes, even holding the Big Red without a basket for much of this time. However, the Orange let Cornell hang around, as the team pulled within 12 with more than three minutes remaining in the game. The Big Red scored eight consecutive points when Coach Courtney implemented a full court press that worked effectively against a Syracuse team that was trying to slow down the tempo and secure the win.
Cornell failed to get any closer, and its losing streak increased to 36 meetings with the Orange. Unfortunately for the Big Red, most of its momentum after two huge wins in December was nullified by a two-week exam break and Saturday afternoon’s loss. It finally appeared that the team was starting to click, so Cornell hopes to find its rhythm again when the squad returns to Newman Nation at 6 P.M. on Wednesday to take on Monmouth University.