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Cornell races out to best start in 12 years

With an 8-2 record, the Cornell Big Red has developed into one of the most effective offenses in the nation. Selected seventh in the Ivy League’s preseason poll, Cornell has picked up wins over Binghamton, Colgate and Saint Francis.

NCAA Basketball: Cornell at Syracuse
Averaging 12.7 points per game, junior forward Jordan Jones is leading the way for Cornell’s scorers.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Following 10 consecutive seasons below .500 and a canceled 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cornell is off to its best start since 2009-10 currently leading the Ivy League with an 8-2 record.

Some might remember the scrappy 2009-10 Cornell squad that went 13-1 in conference play and finished with a 29-5 record under head coach Steve Donahue. Earning a 12 seed in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, the Big Red advanced all the way to the Sweet Sixteen before eventually falling to No. 1 Kentucky.

That was Cornell’s last winning season to date, and Donahue left for Boston College following that run.

Current head coach Brian Earl stepped in to lead the Big Red in 2016 and while his tenure was rocky to start, Earl seems to have used the previous canceled season to his advantage in preparing his team for this year.

Starting the season off 4-0, Cornell defeated Binghamton, Lafayette, Colgate and Wells College before a competitive 85-74 loss to Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center. In spite of a 15-point effort from senior guard Sarju Patel, a late comeback from the Nittany Lions ended Cornell’s winning streak. Penn State shot 15-for-34 (44%) from 3-point land.

Cornell headed home with a spark to its offense and won its next four by beating Saint Francis, Canisius, Coppin State and Keuka College. In each of these games, the Big Red shot 51% or better from the field.

While the winning streak was snapped with a loss to Virginia Tech, behind players like junior forward Jordan Jones and sophomore forward Keller Boothby, Cornell has developed into one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball.

Just ten games under its belt, Cornell has scored the 13th most points in the country and currently sits second in points per game averaging 88.1 behind only the Arizona Wildcats with 91.7. Its scoring is led by Jones who’s managing 12.7 per game, followed by Boothby with 9.6 and sophomore guard Chris Manon with 9.2.

As a team, Earl’s squad shoots 37.8% from three, which is good for 36th in the nation, and with 216 total assists, they’re third best. They’ve gotten it done on the glass as well with the fifth-most defensive rebounds per game in the NCAA.

With Ivy League favorites Yale struggling through the non-conference at 6-7, the door seems wide open for a high-powered offense like Cornell’s to steal the crown despite receiving zero first-place votes and being ranked second to last in the Ivy’s preseason poll.

Cornell will have another interesting test next week against a Syracuse team that has underwhelmed so far and was even beaten at home by Colgate 100-85. The same Colgate team that Cornell held to 68 points and picked up a win over earlier this season.

The Big Red will follow this up with a matchup against Hartford before heading into conference play. If Cornell continues to light up the scoreboard and stat sheet, it will have a real opportunity to make some noise and return to long-awaiting winning ways.