Willard earns first victory in home opener
In his home debut as head coach, Kevin Willard led the Pirates to a 92-68 victory against the Cornell Big Red.
“Today we came in here with the whole package,” senior guard Jeremy Hazell said.
The Pirates were entering the game coming off a 62-56 loss at No. 22 Temple on Friday, marking the first road start to a season in nine years.
Cornell also began their season on Friday under the direction of a new head coach, but came away with a 65-61 victory against Albany. Bill Courtney took the reins after Steve Donahue left the program during the off-season to take a job at Boston College.
The Big Red had one of the highest achieving seasons in program history last year as they went 29-5 overall. They also secured an Ivy League Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth during which they upset No. 5 Temple and No. 4 Wisconsin, making it to the Sweet 16.
In the noon matchup on Sunday, the Hall was led in scoring by Hazell who knocked down eight of 11 field goal attempts, four three pointers and all of his eight free throw attempts for a total of 28 points.
“I thought he played terrific,” Willard said of Hazell. “We’ve got to do a little better job of finding him early.”
The game started off with the Pirates gaining an early six point lead in the first four minutes, a streak that was capped by Hazell’s first three pointer of the game.
Coming off a turnover that the Pirates couldn’t convert, a basket from Jonathan Gray brought the score to 13-8.
The Pirates continued to go on a 14-0 run with about 10 minutes left in the half that ended with an Aaron Osgood three pointer, bringing the score to 27-11.
Cornell trailed 50-35 at the start of the second half as the offense was again quick to be dominated by the Hall. The first five minutes of the half saw a 12-4 run with a shot from Hazell, a quick put-back and a three from junior forward Jeff Robinson as well as a three pointer from junior forward Herb Pope.
The Big Red was unable to come within 19 points of Seton Hall for the remainder of the game.
Cornell found themselves in foul trouble during much of the contest, committing 14 fouls in the first half alone and 10 in the second half.
“We played passively,” Courtney said. “It’s difficult for us because we’ve got a lot of new faces, but I certainly think our team can play better.”
Junior starting point guard Jordan Theodore also played a big role in the Pirates’ victory tallying 10 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.
“As upper classmen, we have to bring it day in and day out,” Theodore said.
Robinson achieved a double-double with 16 points and 10 assists while Pope finished the game with 13 points.
After scoring 16 points off of 18 forced turnovers against Temple, the Pirates scored 25 points from 15 Cornell turnovers.
“Most importantly, it’s good for these kids,” Willard said. “They’ve put a lot of hard work in since last year, so to see them get rewarded is nice.”
Next on the Pirates’ agenda is the Paradise Jam Tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Their first game in the event is on Nov. 19 at 8:30 p.m. when they face the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Gabrielle Kiger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.