While Justin Cooper and James Morales each enjoyed 20-point outings in this latest SUNY Cortland men’s basketball triumph, senior Michael Kelly and junior Andre Hampton played just as crucial roles to this success.
In the Red Dragons’ 79-69 non-conference victory at St. John Fisher on Saturday, Kelly was the key contributor to a 12-1 first half run that put the visitors ahead to stay at Bobby Wanzer Court.
That spurt came with Cortland trailing 31-25 with 7:53 left in that opening stanza, and featured three Kelly layups as well as a 3-point connection. Those were nine of Kelly’s 11 points scored in the contest.
When St. John Fisher battled back from a 61-48 second half deficit to pull within 67-65 on a Keegan Ryan layup, a Morales free throw and Hampton crucial 3-pointer got the Red Dragons back on track. Over the final 4:45 after Hampton’s timely trey, the Cardinals got no closer than five points.
Forward Hampton finished with a career-high 13 points — including 3-of-4 shooting from the 3-point arc — and matched his career best with six rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench.
Sophomore Cooper and junior Morales just continued their solid play that has Cortland riding a four-game winning streak into the holiday break, Coach Tom Spanbauer’s squad improving to 7-2 overall.
Cooper record his fifth double-double of the season, adding a dozen rebounds and five assists to his 20-point showing. He scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half including four free throws down the stretch that helped finish off the victory.
Morales made 7-of-14 shots including a trio of 3-pointers, and also topped the team with three steals.
Zach Lydon came off the bench to add seven points for Cortland, the 6-foot-9 forward also blocking three shots.
The teams were playing for the first time since St. John Fisher defeated Cortland in December 2006 in a tournament at York College in Pennsylvania.
Ryan paced the Cardinals (4-3) with 17 points and also grabbed nine rebounds. Sammy Robinson poured in 11 points and Tyler English ended with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Both teams shot nearly the same from the field, Cortland at 41 percent and Fisher at 40 percent. The Red Dragons made 10 shots from 3-point range to seven for the Cardinals, and turned the ball over only nine times compared to St. John Fisher’s 14.
Cortland will face Widener University of Pennsylvania in the opening round of the Johns Hopkins Blue Jay Invitational on Monday, Jan. 2, at 1 p.m. in Baltimore. The Red Dragons will then play either Cazenovia or Johns Hopkins the next day at either 1 or 3 p.m.