On an afternoon when the offense struggled, the Cornell men’s basketball team still had enough to take home a trophy. The Big Red relied on its defense and rebounding in a 74-61 victory over Utah Valley on Monday afternoon at Flagler Gymnasium. The Big Red improved to 5-1 on the season, while the Wolverines slipped to 3-2.
To win the Jacksonville Classic Bay Bracket, the Big Red needed its best defensive effort of the season. Cornell held the Wolverines to 39 percent shooting overall and a miserable 4-for-26 effort from beyond the arc while outrebounding its foe 46-33. The decisive first half saw Cornell hold Utah Valley to 30 percent (10-of-33) from the floor in taking a 28-24 advantage into the locker room.
Chris Manon, the tournament MVP, posted 13 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals to lead a balanced attack that placed four in double figures. Guy Ragland Jr. posted his third career double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds, including six on the offensive end, while both Sean Hansen and AK Okereke also chipped in 11. Isaiah Gray scored eight points with a career-best eight rebounds and three assists. Cornell came alive after halftime, scoring 46 points and shooting 52 percent to raise its game total to 45 percent. The Big Red bench held a mammoth 37-17 scoring edge.
Drake Allen scored 16 points and Cale Stone-Carrawell netted 15 with five rebounds for Utah Valley. Trevin Dorius was credited with six points, six rebounds and four of the team’s nine blocked shots in the loss.
Though the Big Red led for more than 33 minutes, it didn’t come with a roaring start out of the gates. In fact, neither team moved the scoreboard for nearly three minutes when a Sean Hansen 3-pointer gave the Big Red the first points of the game. Utah Valley answered right back and led 9-5 before Cornell found some answers. A 3-pointer by Keller Boothby triggered a 10-0 run than moved Cornell into the lead by six as Utah Valley was held scoreless for 5:33. The Big Red couldn’t run away with it, with the Wolverines tying the game at 20-20 and again at 22-22 before a pair of Okereke free throws and a Hansen finish inside pushed it back to four. Three minutes later, the Big Red took its 28-24 advantage into halftime.
The Big Red defense didn’t force turnovers the way it did on Sunday, instead forcing misses and cleaning up the boards. Utah Valley shot just 30 percent overall and connected on 2-of-12 from beyond the arc. Tanner Toolson, the team’s leading scorer at 13.8 points per game, missed all five first half shots and ended the night scoreless on 0-for-8 shooting (0-for-5 from 3-point range).
The second half saw Cornell find its groove offensively, scoring 46 points and shooting 52 percent (including 5-of-12 from 3-point range), while forcing misses from beyond the arc as Utah Valley tried to get back in the game. The Wolverines clawed back to within two a minute in (31-29), but Gray got a layup and the Big Red put up an 8-1 spurt. The lead drew to 16, then 22, as the Big Red cruised to victory. Ragland Jr. had nine second half rebounds, nearly matching Utah Valley’s team total over the second 20 minutes (12).
The Big Red returns to action when it hosts Monmouth on Wednesday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. at Newman Arena.