Cornell men win opener
The Cornell men's basketball team turned its season opener into a block party and everyone was invited, including the 1987-88 Ivy League championship team. When it was all over, Cornell walked out of Newman Arena with a 63-55 win over the Broncos on Saturday afternoon in the season opener for both teams.
Unveiling a relentless pressure defense on unsuspecting Western Michigan, the Big Red limited the Broncos to 1-of-13 shooting to open the game, blocked 13 shots (one shy of a school record) and had eight steals. In all, Cornell held Western Michigan to 30 percent shooting overall and 21 percent from 3-point range while holding a 40-34 edge on the backboards.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1987-88 Ivy League champions, the Big Red put on a high-energy defensive show to open its third season under head coach Bill Courtney. Shonn Miller blocked six shots and added three steals and six rebounds, while Eitan Chemerinski blocked two, had two steals and posted seven rebounds to spark the defense in the frontcourt.
While the spotlight was squarely on the defensive effort, freshman Nolan Cressler made quite an impression on the Newman Nation crowd, scoring a game-high 20 points and nailing six 3-pointers off the bench in his debut. Galal Cancer also had 10 points seven assists and five rebounds off the bench, while Errick Peck rounded out the double figure scorers with 10 points in his first action since the 2010-11 campaign.
Shayne Whittington posted a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Broncos, with Jared Klein adding 12 points and a game-high five steals off the bench.
Western Michigan scored the game's first four points, but when the Big Red caught them on a layup by Cancer less than five minutes in, Cornell would never again trail. The Broncos made its third shot of the night, then went without a field goal for a span of 8:08 as Cornell turned a four-point deficit (4-0) into a nine-point lead (16-7) with under 10 minutes remaining in the half. Cressler had 10 points during the 16-3 run as part of a 4-for-4 half. The visitors were stifled the entire first 20 minutes, shooting just 21 percent from the floor, but was still able to stay within two (28-26) at the break by forcing 11 Cornell turnovers.
While the Big Red never got scorching hot after the break, its offense was much more fluid. The Big Red assisted on 11 of its 13 baskets and made 5-of-13 shots from beyond the arc while turning it over just five times. Western Michigan would fall behind by as many as 12 points (55-43 with 5:15 left) before making a late run to get back in the game. The Broncos got within four on a pair of free throws by Klein with 30 seconds to play, but Errick Peck and Shonn Miller each connected on free throws to salt the game away in the final 23 seconds to claim the win.
Cornell returns to action on Wednesday, Nov. 14 when it plays St. Bonaventure at Newman Arena in a game that will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network.