Cornell shot 59.4 percent from the floor in the second half against the worst field-goal percentage defense in the Ivy League entering the night, while Harvard hit just a third of its 36 second-half shots.
“Certainly, we couldn’t guard the way we had to in the second half,” Crimson coach Frank Sullivan said.
That was the reverse of the game’s first 20 minutes, when Harvard shot 57.1 percent from the field and built a 39-35 lead.
Meanwhile, the Big Red hit at a 41.4-percent clip but kept itself in the game early with 16 second-chance points off eight offensive rebounds.
“The game was lost with our inability to limit them to a minimum number of shots,” Sullivan said.
The Crimson’s ability to contain point guard Ka’Ron Barnes significantly contributed to Cornell’s first-half struggles. The Ivy leader in scoring, assists and steals entering the night, Barnes was shooting just two-for-eight and didn’t have a single assist or steal at halftime.
The Big Red began to build momentum when shooting guard Cody Toppert converted a four-point play 2:47 into the second half to cut Harvard’s lead to one.
“The rhythm of the second half started because of that,” Sullivan said. “They got their rhythm going.”
That rhythm saw Cornell slowly but steadily pull away from the Crimson.
The Big Red hit all six of its free throws in the final minute to ice the contest.
Sophomore forward Matt Stehle had kept Harvard in the game early in the second frame, scoring the Crimson’s first 11 points after the break, but he picked up his third foul—a player-control foul—with 12:18 remaining and was replaced by sophomore forward Zach Martin.
The halftime margin could have been larger, but the Harvard offense came unglued after a layup by Martin gave the squad its biggest lead of the game at 35-21 with 5:20 to play in the first.
That bucket proved to be the Crimson’s last until a layup by freshman shooting guard Jim Goffredo fourteen seconds before halftime.
The Harvard drought coincided with the foul trouble of sophomore point guard Michael Beal who picked up his second foul 4:31 before the break and had to sit down.
The Crimson also twice missed on the front end of a one-and-one during the stretch.