2683 total votes.
Danger loomed on the unsalted, unplowed roads. Cars spun out of control. Others stopped dead on hills, unable to climb the incline. Still, most of the 16,300 fans who held tickets showed up Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse and were rewarded with one magnificent college basketball game between No. 1 Kansas and underrated Cornell.
Those who don’t have the stomach to weather close games might prefer blowouts against the Alcorn States of the world, but for those who derive more pleasure from watching an exciting game than from boasting about their school’s powerhouse basketball team drilling another punching bag by 30-plus points, this was a rare nonconference delight.
This one had drama, with the underdog pulling ahead by eight early in the second half. It had star power, each team looking to its best player to hit big shots. Above all, it had suspense. Which team would win? It’s not often such a question is asked in the fieldhouse before Big 12 play starts. Too bad there aren’t more games such as this one in November, December and early January.
Somewhere today you are liable to hear a voice saying that it’s troubling Kansas could only beat Cornell by a 71-66 score and, horror of horrors, trailed with 48 seconds remaining.
For one thing, Cornell is a very good college basketball team, loaded with terrific shooters who also happen to be extremely aggressive, experienced, smart basketball players capable of running their offense so precisely. For another, it was one of those nights where nearly every KU player couldn’t get his shots to drop, yet Kansas still found a way to win. (The four East Coast players — Tyshawn Taylor, Marcus and Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson — combined to play 68 minutes and did not make a field goal.)
A basketball game is at its best when each team’s superstar catches fire. Cornell’s 6-foot-7 senior forward Ryan Wittman did so in the first half, scoring 15 of his 24 points and showcasing extremely deep range and a blink-and-you-missed-it release. He made four of seven three-pointers in the first half, just one of seven in the second half, when Brady Morningstar’s reputation as a defensive stopper grew yet again.
“Wittman’s a terrific player, hands down,” KU senior guard Sherron Collins said. “I tip my hat to him.”
Wittman was all the pregame billing said he would be. He just wasn’t Collins, who played two great halves. Not many college basketball players are. Collins needed just 16 field-goal attempts to score a career-high 33 points.
“There was a lid on the basket for everybody but Sherron,” freshman forward Xavier Henry said. “I missed a ton of layups. Cole (Aldrich) missed a lot. The twins missed a lot. It was a tough night. It was just one of those nights it feels different. Sherron had to carry us. If he didn’t carry us, we don’t know what would have happened. We just had to let him go.”
A loss would have ended KU’s Allen Fieldhouse winning streak at 50 games. A sense of relief fell over the team and the crowd when a tough opponent finally was conquered.
“We were wiping the brow and saying, ‘Thanks, Sherron’ and thanks to our crowd,” Henry said.