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Second-half defense lifts Cornell to season sweep of Harvard

  • / Updated:
  • Kyle Evans 

The Cornell men’s basketball team held Harvard to 22 percent shooting in the second half to complete a season sweep of Harvard, topping the Crimson 75-62 on Friday evening at Newman Arena. The Big Red improved to 18-4 (7-1 Ivy), while the Crimson slipped to 12-9 (3-5 Ivy).

Nazir Williams led four Big Red players in double figures with 14 points, with Chris ManonCooper Noard and Jake Fiegen adding 11 points each. Fiegen’s double figure game was the first of his career, with his eight rebounds off the bench also a career high for the rookie. Manon added three rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks, while Sean Hansen had eight points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks of his own. Guy Ragland Jr. chipped in eight points and seven boards for a Big Red team that shot 46 percent overall, made 11 3-pointers and outrebounded the Crimson 41-35.

Chisom Okpara notched 15 points to lead the Crimson, who shot just 32 percent overall and were 5-of-18 from beyond the arc. Malik Mack added 12 points and Justice Ajogbor notched 11 points with seven boards. 

Cornell seemed a step slow in the first half, but rode 52 percent shooting into the break with a 37-34 lead. Fiegen scored eight first half points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and ripped down five rebounds in 12 energetic minutes while helping provide defense on Mack, the nation’s second leading freshman scorer. The home team turned the ball over 11 times in the first 20 minutes, nearly nullifying the six 3-pointers and 20-12 edge on the backboards.

The teams traded leads with neither team going up more than six points. A Chris Manon layup through traffic at the buzzer allowed the home team to go into the locker room up three, but it was a 3-pointer off an inbounds play by Keller Boothby four minutes earlier that put Cornell in the lead for good. There were five ties and four lead changes until Boothby’s trey put the Big Red up 30-27. Ninety seconds later, Fiegen’s second trey of the half pushed the advantage to six and Cornell rode that momentum into the break. 

An 8-0 run to begin the second half that included 3-pointers by Williams and Ragland gave Cornell a double-digit lead 2:15 into the second half as the defense settled in against the Crimson. Harvard began the second half 0-for-4 from the field with a pair of turnovers and had the first of two dunk attempts blocked, the first by Ragland and a second by Manon later in the half. The Crimson got back within four after two free throws by Ajogbor to make it 48-44, but four straight by Williams extended it back to three possessions midway through the second half.

An AK Okereke dunk for the Big Red forced a Harvard timeout with 8:57 left and Cornell holding a 65-51 edge, a lead that would grown to 16. The Crimson chipped into that lead to make it a 10-point game when Xavier Nesbitt side-stepped a defender and canned a 3-pointer with 5:30 left. The visitors wouldn’t make a field goal the rest of the way as Cornell locked down its ninth straight home win dating back to last season.

NEXT UP

• Cornell will attempt to sweep the season series with Dartmouth when it hosts the Big Green on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. at Newman Arena.
• The contest will be broadcast live on ESPN+.
• Cornell leads the all-time series 116-109 after its 56-53 victory on Feb. 2 in Hanover, N.H., its third consecutive win in the series.
• The Big Red leads the series 68-44 in games played in Ithaca.