Friday, November 20, 2015

News and Notes: Friday Edition

Below, news and notes for a Friday...

  • The Olean Times Herald checks in on local products and writes, "— Wil Bathurst: Now a sophomore at Division I Cornell, Bathurst had a big game Monday night, totaling 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in helping the Big Red to a wild 101-98 double overtime victory over Colgate.  In two games this season, the 2014 Olean High graduate, and that year’s Big 30 Player of the Year, is averaging 25 minutes per contest while coming off the bench. He previously had two rebounds in a season-opening loss to Georgia Tech."
  • The NWI Times notes that Cornell is recruiting a player in their local area. 
Matt Morgan didn’t uproot himself from the warm climate of North Carolina simply to be on the Cornell University men’s basketball team. Morgan came north to make an impact.
So far, Morgan has provided the Big Red (2-1) with an immediate boost in a backcourt that lost a pair of senior starters to graduation. Cornell head coach Bill Courtney inserted Morgan into the starting lineup for the season opener, and Morgan has responded by averaging 20 points and five assists per game through his first three games.
He scored a game-high 24 points against Binghamton University in the Big Red home opener on Wednesday, 16 of those points came in the second half.
“Senior year when coach Courtney would call me and come down to visit, he always told me he’s not recruiting me to be a backup guard,” Morgan said. “He was recruiting me to be a starting guard. When I came up here he said it’s not going to be easy. I had to work for it every day.”
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound combo guard has settled into a role playing alongside Big Red junior guard Robert Hatter (22.3 ppg, six assists per game). Hatter, who Morgan credits for helping him prepare to play right away, has moved back to the point guard spot after playing predominantly off the ball last season.
Morgan spent a large chunk of his high school career as the lead guard at Cox Mill High outside of Charlotte. As a junior he averaged 25.1 points per game and earned, and as a senior he became the first player in school history to surpass the 1,600-point plateau.
“I was always the guy with the ball in my hands, setting up plays, making plays, shooting the ball, scoring the ball,” Morgan said. “I was more the primary guy in high school. I had the ball in my hands probably 70 to 80 percent of the time. Now, it’s a big adjustment with the ball not in my hands as much. I think it’s also helped me learn how to play off the ball too.”
The majority of Morgan’s damage has come from behind the 3-point line, where he has made 41 percent of his shots (11-for-27) in the first three games. He has shown off a quick trigger in catch-and-shoot situation as well as the ability to pull-up off the dribble and launch.
On Wednesday, he treated the home crowd at Newman Arena to a 5-for-8 shooting performance from long range, including one 3-pointer in the second half from four or five feet behind the line.
While the hot start can only bolster Morgan’s confidence, he also knows opposing teams will soon make stopping him a primary focus.
“Just being able to come out fast is a blessing, but I’ve got to keep it up because now teams are going to put me on the scouting report,” Morgan said. “I’ve got to have a counter punch for it.”
Offensively, Morgan’s addition along with the play of junior Darryl Smith has given the Big Red a multifaceted perimeter attack. Smith scored a career high 16 points on Wednesday.
“I’ve been saying since the season began that I knew wouldn’t be as good defensively as we were last year, but offensively we had a chance to be pretty good,” Courtney said.
“(Morgan) is a big reason why. We knew he could score the basketball. He’s a kid that averaged 25 points per game as a junior in high school. We thought coming in that he could have a big role as a freshman. He’s certainly proved to be that, but having another guy that can put the ball in the basket – especially the way Darryl Smith is playing right now – that makes us very hard to guard.”
Cornell – If Cornell’s first game was wild in its own way (surrendering 116 points in a road loss to Georgia Tech), then its next contest at Colgate was certifiably insane, and worthy of its own recap. The Big Red held jumped out to a 13-2 lead and held a 36-17 advantage in the first half. Cornell even held a 62-51 lead as late as the 8:45 mark of the second half before Colgate came back by heating up from beyond the arc and constantly getting to the line. Cornell junior guard Darryl Smith’s trey with 49 seconds left tied the game and forced overtime, during which Cornell built and blew another eight-point lead in the final two minutes of the period. Cornell sophomore guard Wil Bathurst forced double overtime with his jumper with two seconds left, and the Big Red took over from there for a 101-98 victory.
Now that the crazy has been chronicled, what to make of it? Not a good look to give up 214 points in your first two games of the season, but at least Cornell followers now know there are a few legitimate offensive talents among their guys. Junior guard Robert Hatter notched 33 points in just 27 minutes against Colgate before fouling out in double overtime, and freshman guard Matt Morgan took advantage of his insertion into the starting lineup by drilling five three-pointers in a 76-59 home win over Binghamton Tuesday. Hatter, Morgan and Smith comprise a solid shooting nucleus, but the team is still undisciplined at that end of the floor – 20 turnovers against Binghamton, including eight from Hatter to go with his 11 assists. This is a team without much of a frontcourt at either end of the floor, and I don’t see Cornell’s big shots-to-bad turnovers ratio holding up well against teams with tighter defenses.

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