The Cornell men’s basketball team went out with a fight, taking Iowa Conference runner-up Buena Vista down to the final minutes before falling 75-64 in Saturday’s season finale at the Small Multi-Sport Center.
The Rams made a late push, trimming a 16-point deficit to 65-61 on an Alex Miller 3-pointer with 2:40 remaining. Buena Vista put the game away by hitting eight consecutive free throws down the stretch.
Cornell dropped a 73-39 road contest to Dubuque on Wednesday. The senior-less Rams finished a tough campaign 3-22 overall, 1-15 in the IIAC under third-year head coach Chad Murray.
Murray was pleased with his team’s effort in the finale. The game got away late in the first half when Buena Vista went on a 16-0 run to take a 35-21 lead into intermission.
“We outplayed them for 36 minutes and held a good Buena Vista team to four offensive rebounds for the game. We knew transition defense and rebounding would be critical, and we did a good job in both areas,” Murray said. “What killed us Saturday and all season, is we had a stretch where we shut down offensively. If we eliminate those stretches, we’re winning games against the top teams in the conference.”
Junior forward Rory Cotter matched his season-high with 19 points behind 7-of-14 shooting. He drained three 3-pointers and collected five rebounds for the Rams, who outscored the guests 43-40 in the second half.
The Rams made 10 3-point goals, including 7-of-10 in the second half to make it interesting in the end. Reggie Greenwood and Miller had three 3-pointers apiece and finished with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Greenwood added five assists, four rebounds and four steals to another fine all-around performance. Joey Guth and Nick Bobb shared team-high honors with six rebounds.
The Beavers (15-10, 11-5 IIAC) shot a sizzling 61.1 percent in the second half and hit 24-of-45 field goals (53.3 percent) for the game. Buena Vista held a 31-27 edge on the boards.
Cornell struggled on the offensive end against a Dubuque squad (17-8, 11-5) that tied for second in the IIAC regular-season race. The Rams were held to 27.1 percent shooting and went 1-of-11 from long range.
Dubuque broke the game open with a 46-19 run in the second half. The Spartans outrebounded Cornell, 51-30, and held an 11-point advantage from the foul line.
Guth led the Rams with nine points. Matt Bergstad tallied seven points off the bench. Greenwood had a team-high six rebounds.
IIAC rankings – Greenwood finished a strong sophomore campaign among the conference regular-season leaders in seven statistical categories, including an IIAC-best 34.8 minutes played per game. He ranked third in assists (3.68 apg), fifth in scoring (14.8 ppg), steals (1.44 spg) and assist/turnover ratio (+1.28), seventh in 3-pointers made (1.80 pg) and ninth in free throw percentage (78.4).
Bobb stood fifth in blocked shots (1.04 bpg). Miller was eighth in 3-point percentage (40.2). Cotter finished ninth in both rebounding (6.0 rpg) and steals (1.25 spg).
A look ahead – The Rams have their entire roster back intact next season, led by two-year starters Cotter, Miller and Greenwood. Guth, a sophomore, and Bobb, a freshman, were also part of this season’s starting rotation. Of the team’s 17 players, 13 were freshmen and sophomores.
“I don’t think the kids understood how close we were to getting over the hump this season,” Murray said. “We just need to become better skilled basketball players. We will really emphasize individual skill work in the offseason. We need to get bigger and stronger, but clearly our skill level is not where it needs to be. The guys have to put in the time to get better.”