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Giant first-half run gives Cornell 83-68 victory over Princeton

The Cornell crowd set the tone and the Big Red men’s basketball team did the rest, blitzing the Tigers for a 30-5 first half run en route to an 83-68 victory over the Tigers on Saturday afternoon at Newman Arena. The Big Red improved to 15-3 (4-0 Ivy), while the Tigers lost for only the second time this year (15-2, 3-1 Ivy).

The Big Red shot 58 percent from the floor, limited Princeton to 32 percent shooting and dominated the matchup for first-place in the Ivy League. Junior Nazir Williams scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds while hitting all four of his 3-pointers, while senior Chris Manonhad 16 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks to electrify a Newman Nation crowd of better than 3,600. Both AK Okerekeand Sean Hansen had 12 points apiece to round out four double figure scorers.

The Tigers, the defending Ivy champ and 2023 NCAA Sweet 16 squad, entered the game just outside the national rankings, but had just one double figure scorer – Xaivian Lee with 17 points on 3-of-13 shooting. Caden Pierce was 3-for-13 en route to eight points, 11 rebounds and four assists, while Zach Martini and Dalen Davis had nine points each. Princeton connected on 25-of-33 free throws as the Tigers did much of their work at the charity stripe, as Princeton drew 25 fouls to just 12 for the Big Red.

On a day where both coaching staffs were wearing suits and sneakers for Coaches vs. Cancer Week, it was the Big Red who were buttoned up right from the beginning. Cornell held a 37-32 edge on the glass and had decisive edges in points in the paint (44-26) and on fast breaks (19-8). Despite playing without the services of starting guard Isaiah Gray, Cornell didn’t miss a beat on either side of the floor.

The Big Red got production up and down the lineup. Freshmen Jacob Beccles and Jake Fiegen each had seven points and two rebounds, with Fiegen providing excellent defense against Lee. Noard and Williams each also matched up for significant portions against Lee, with Noard adding four points in the win.

After a back-and-forth 10 minutes that saw the Tigers lead by four, Cornell went on a huge run over the next 9:18, limiting the visitors to 1-for-12 shooting while connecting on 12 field goals, including six 3-pointers, over that span. Williams (12) and Manon (9) combined for 21 of the team’s points that allowed the home team to take a 43-22 edge before settling into halftime with a 19-point edge.

Williams had 12 first half points, while Manon notched nine points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals as the Big Red shot 56 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes.  

The Tigers only momentarily challenged in the second half, getting within 11 (66-55) on a Caden Pierce three-point play with 7:16 remaining, but Cornell’s Hansen answered with a bucket, then found Fiegen for a layup to push it back to 14 a moment later. It was a 20-point game when both teams emptied the benches with just over two minutes remaining.

NEXT UP

• Cornell begins a three-game Ivy League road swing when it visits Dartmouth on Friday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H.
• The contest will be broadcast live on ESPN+.
• Cornell leads the all-time series 115-109, including a season sweep of the series in 2022-23.
• The Big Red is 6-2 against the Big Green in Hanover over the past eight seasons.