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Cornell wins Ivy opener, outlasts Columbia 91-79

Junior Nazir Williams scored a season-best 24 points in his first start of the season as the Cornell men’s basketball team won its Ivy League opener over Columbia 91-79 on Tuesday evening at Newman Arena. The Big Red improved to 11-3 (1-0 Ivy), while the Lions slipped to 9-5 (0-1 Ivy).

Williams connected on 8-of-12 shots from the floor and assisted on three baskets without committing a turnover as the Big Red shot 54 percent from the floor and knocked down 12 3-pointers. Sean Hansen added 14 points, six rebounds and three assists and both Isaiah Gray and Cooper Noard added 11 points to round out four double figure scorers. Cornell turned it over just nine times and held a 33-30 edge on the glass. 

Columbia shot 51 percent itself and connected on 10-of-18 3-pointers, assisting on 19 baskets with five players in double figures. Avery Brown led the way with 17 along with four assists, three rebounds and three steals. Kenny Noland and Josh Odunowo had 11 points apiece and Jaden Cooper and Zine Eddine Bedri scored 10 each off the bench.

The game went back-and-forth over the first 14 minutes with the lead changing nine times before Hansen’s three-point play put the home team in the lead 34-32. Outside of an 11-second span early in the second half when the Lions momentarily tied it up, the Big Red led the rest of the way.

Columbia made six first half 3-pointers and shot 57 percent from the floor, but still trailed 48-44 at the break thanks to 14 points from Williams and 58 percent shooting from the Big Red. A 14-4 Big Red run late in the half, including a Williams bucket followed quickly by a Manon steal and layup in the backcourt,sent Cornell into the locker room with momentum.

The Lions got the first two buckets of the second half to knot the game, but a 5-0 spurt with Noard finishing a backdoor cut on a feed from Hansen, followed by a 3-pointer by the big man, made it 53-48. The lead hovered between three and seven points, with the Lions seemingly answering every bucket with one of its own. Consecutive buckets by Keller Boothby, who connected on three 3-pointers, extended the Cornell lead to nine (77-68) with just under five minutes to play, and the Lions never got within two possessions the rest of the way. The home team sealed the win with six straight free throws in the final 47 seconds to pick up its first conference win of 2024.

UP NEXT

• Cornell continues its stretch of four home contests over the next five games when Ivy rival Penn visits Newman Arena on Monday, Jan. 15 at 2 p.m.
• The contest will be broadcast live on ESPN+.
• Penn holds a dominant 162-76 lead in the all-time series, though the teams split last season’s home-and-home contests.