Matt Knowling’s three-point play on an inbounds set with 3.2 seconds remaining lifted defending Ivy champ Yale past Cormnell 80-78 on Saturday afternoon at John J. Lee Amphitheater in a battle of conference unbeatens that felt like a heavyweight fight. The Bulldogs won their ninth straight contest to improve to 16-6 (7-0 Ivy), while the Big Red fell to 17-4 (6-1 Ivy).
Chris Manon scored 22 points, including the go-ahead basket with 27.9 seconds remaining, on 9-of-11 shooting from the field and added three rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot. Nazir Williamswas 8-of-11 from the floor for 17 points, while Isaiah Gray netted six points with six assists and four rebounds. Cornell shot 55 percent from the floor against a Yale defense surrendering just 41 percent shooting entering the contest.
Danny Wolf led Yale with 25 points and 10 rebounds, but also had five turnovers. Knowling ended the contest with 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists for a Yale team that had 17 offensive rebounds and a 20-2 edge in second chance points. John Poulakidas had 13 points, including two key triples among the three Yale connected on all day, and August Mahoney had 11 with five boards.
From the tip, the game felt like a high-level playoff game, and the first five and last five minutes showcased why. Tremendous shot-making allowed the Big Red to go up 14-11 just 4:43 into the game, with Cornell shooting 5-of-6 from the floor and Yale connecting on 4-of-6. The final five minutes of the game saw three ties and three lead changes, including a pair of lead changes in the final 30 seconds.
Manon hit a fallaway jumper in the lane to put the home team ahead with 27.9 seconds left. The Big Red forced Wolf into a tough shot, but couldn’t corral the rebound and Yale called timeout with 4.0 seconds left. Mbeng found Knowling on a cut and the bUlldog was fouled while putting up the shot to give the home team a 79-78 lead with 3.2 seconds left. The free throw was made to make it a two-point contest, and Williams’ deep 3-pointer at the buzzer for the win rimmed out to allow the home team to escape with the victory.
The Big Red led by as many as 15 in the first half and went into the break with a 46-38 edge thanks to 57 percent shooting on offense and a defense that limited the Bulldogs to 1-of-10 shooting from the floor. Nine different Cornell players scored with Manon’s 14 points leading the way, with the Big Red sporting 12 assists and four turnovers. Yale stayed in the game due to 7-0 center Danny Wolf, who scored half of the Bulldogs’ 38 points. Yale held a 20-12 edge on the backboards and had a 7-0 advantage in second chance points.
A back-and-forth first 20 minutes turned in Cornell’s favor seven minutes in after consecutive 3-pointers by Keller Boothby turned a one-point lead into a seven-point edge within 15 secondsto make it 22-15. A 14-2 Big Red surge that featured nine points from Manon pushed the lead to 14 and eventually climbed to 15 (39-24) with 4:39 remaining in the half. Wolf took over late for the Bulldogs, scoring nine points in the final five minutes to get within eight points heading into the locker room and setting up an exciting second half.
• The Big Red returns home after a three-game road swing to begin four consecutive home contests when it welcomes Harvard on Friday, Feb. 16 at 6 p.m. and Dartmouth the following day at 6 p.m. at Newman Arena.
• The contest will be broadcast live on ESPN+.
• Cornell leads the all-time series 97-87 after its 89-76 victory on Feb. 3 in Cambridge, snapping Harvard’s three-game win streak in the series.