Playing its second Ivy League team this season, the Boston University men’s basketball team defeated Cornell University 70–57, Saturday afternoon at Case Gymnasium.
Cornell (4–8) entered the game fresh off an 88–47 dismantling courtesy of the Duke University Blue Devils. Cornell has also lost to other powerhouse teams such as Vanderbilt University, Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin.
In their only other matchup against an America East opponent this season, the Big Red lost to Stony Brook University by a score of 76–53
Even with the teams having similarly below-average records, BU (5-6) expected a physical game from Cornell.
“[The Big Red] had most of their team back from last year and they thoroughly outplayed us last time, even though we only lost by six,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “We knew it was going to be a tough game coming in.”
The teams were evenly matched in the first 10 minutes of the game, with neither squad controlling the tempo or building a significant lead. After two 3-pointers from Cornell guard Dwight Tarwater midway through the first half, the Big Red took the lead over the Terriers, 20–14. Cornell led the rest of the half and went into the locker room with a 35–30 advantage.
“We gave them some second-chance points in the first half,” Jones said. “They had four offensive rebounds that led to straight put backs. That really hurt us.”
Junior guard DJ Irving kept the Terriers in the game with 12 points, even as BU was being out rebounded on the glass in the first half.
At the start of the second half, redshirt sophomore forward Malik Thomas found his shot. With zero points in the first half, Thomas shot a perfect 5-for-5 from behind the 3-point line and totaled 17 points.
“[Cornell] left [Thomas] open a lot when they tried keeping DJ out of the lane,” Jones said. “When we rolled [junior forward] Dom [Morris] to the basket, the defenders were helping off Malik, leaving him open because he wasn’t shooting well coming in. Once he hit one, he started feeling it a little bit and he got it going.”
Thomas hit two clutch 3-pointers to tie the game at 37 points apiece 5:06 into the second half. The score remained close for the next few minutes, with the teams exchanging baskets.
Then, Irving and Thomas took over for the Terriers.
Irving got the run started with six quick points, and then Thomas nailed two 3-pointers for six points of his own. After being out-rebounded in the first half, the Terriers began pulling down boards and giving themselves second chances on the offensive side.
A dunk from Morris at the 17:00 mark of the second half put the Terriers up by eleven and put the Big Red in a deep hole.
The Terriers built on their lead late in the game when Thomas hit his last 3-pointer of the night. After hitting their foul shots late in the game, the Terriers defeated the Big Red, 70–57.
The second-half defense for the Terriers was exceptionally strong. BU held Cornell to 22 points in the second half while forcing 10 Big Red turnovers, six of which came from forward Errick Peck.
Cornell shot just 37 percent from the field and 15.4 percent from 3-point land. The BU defense also played smart, tight defense, committing only one foul in the second half.
“[The Big Red] were bigger in size and they tried to post us up a ton, so in the second half we really packed it in and forced a lot of turnovers when they tried passing out of the double team,” Jones said.
On the other hand, the Terriers’ offense, led by Irving and Thomas, was able to shoot 52.4 percent from the field while also hitting 13-of-14 free throws in the second half.
Following the holiday, BU will travel to Orlando, Fla., for the Men’s Basketball at University of Central Florida Holiday Tournament. The Terriers are slated to play Belmont University on Friday.