Late game poise and a key late defensive stop allowed the Cornell men’s basketball team to head into a holiday break with a victory after a 90-85 victory at Robert Morris on Friday afternoon at UUPMC Events Center. The Big Red improved to 9-2, matching its best start since 1967, and won its fifth true road game, tied for the most in all of Division I. The Colonials fell to 4-9 with the loss.
Chris Manon scored 20 points and added six rebounds, five steals and four assists to become the first Cornell player in school history to post those numbers or better in a single game. He led four double figure scorers, with Isaiah Gray adding 17 points, four assists, two steals and two rebounds and Nazir Williams adding 12 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals with zero turnovers. AK Okereke netted 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting and Guy Ragland Jr. chipped in nine with three rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. As a team, the Big Red shot 57 percent from the floor and connected on 20-of-22 free throws, including 13-of-14 after halftime. The Big Red had 13 steals and held significant advantages in points in the paint (50-36), fast break points (16-4) and bench points (41-13).
Josh Corbin scored 22 points to lead Robert Morris, with Stephaun Walker posting 20 to go along with nine rebounds and three steals. The home team connected on 12-of-27 3-pointers, but largely used its 23-4 edge on second chance points to control much of the contest. Justice Williams was the third double figure scorer with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Colonials, who shot 49 percent overall but connected on just 11-of-23 free throws.
In a game that featured seven ties and 16 lead changes, the spread was more than a single possession for just 14 seconds in the final nine minutes. Tied with 1:30 to go, Gray put the Big Red ahead for good with a pair of free throws. Cornell then got a stop on arguably its best defensive possession of the afternoon with Manon securing the rebound, then scoring on the other end after being double teamed inside. His two free throws with eight seconds remaining pushed the advantage to five and allowed Cornell to get out of town with the win.
The Big Red spent much of the first half on its heels, as the home team led by as many as a dozen thanks to its strength on the offensive glass. By halftime, nine of Robert Morris’ 20 rebounds were on the offensive end, and 17 of its 48 points were on second chance attempts. Robert Morris entered the break up 48-43, but only after a 7-0 spurt by the Big Red to head into the locker room, including a halfcourt steal that turned into a Jake Fiegen putback at the buzzer.
Fiegen, a freshman, scored five points with two rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot while doing significant work on the game-winning defensive possession in a career-high 21 minutes off the bench.
Cornell picked right up where it left off before the break, going on an 18-4 run over the first 4:40 that extended to 25-4 prior to halftime to turn a 12-point deficit into a nine-point lead. The Colonials evened out, setting up a back-and-forth final nine minutes.
• The Big Red will welcome five-time defending Patriot League champion Colgate to Newman Arena on Saturday, Dec. 30 at 4 p.m.
• The teams have split the last eight meetings down the middle, with the Big Red winning each of the past two by double digits.
• Overall, Cornell holds a 75-58 edge in the all-time series, including 46-26 in games played in Ithaca.