James Morales and Nicky Bonura combined for 44 points and Cortland overcame a nine-point, second-half deficit Wednesday night as the Red Dragons defeated visiting Ithaca College, 70-66, in the men’s basketball season-opener for both teams.
Morales finished with 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting from the field. He scored nine of his points in the final four and a half minutes to help Cortland hold on down the stretch. Bonura tallied 14 of his career-high 16 points in the second half, including eight straight points on a long 2-point jumper and two treys that reduced a 56-47 deficit with 7:22 left to a 56-55 game with 6:01 left.
Justin Cooper added eight points and eight rebounds. His two free throws sealed the victory with 5.7 seconds remaining. Brendan Fitzpatrick finished with seven points, Zach Lydon pulled down eight rebounds and Carrel Joseph chipped in with seven rebounds.
Riley Thompson led Ithaca with 21 points. He made 5-of-9 attempts from the 3-point arc, with the last of those baskets giving the Bombers the nine-point lead that was the largest for either team. Marc Chasin ended with 16 points, and Peter Ezema hauled in 11 rebounds. Cooper Macklin and Carroll Rich led the Bombers with three assists apiece.
Ithaca led 10-3 less than five minutes into the game, but Cortland rallied to tie it at 20-20 with 8:08 remaining. Ithaca held a 29-26 halftime advantage and opened its lead to 34-28 early in the second.
Cortland came back and took a 44-42 lead on a Bonura 3-pointer with 10:17 left, but Ithaca answered with a Thompson trey, an Ezema layup, and a Bryan Karl 3-pointer to go up 50-44. Bonura briefly stopped the run with a 3-pointer at the 8:18 mark before Thompson nailed 3-pointers on back-to-back trips down the floor.
After Bonura’s eight straight points cut the deficit to one, Cortland regained the lead on a Lydon put-back with 5:05 left. Ithaca grabbed its final lead of the evening at 58-57 on Chasin’s layup with 4:39 on the clock. Morales took over offensively for the hosts at that point, starting with a 3-pointer with 4:09 left to give the Red Dragons the lead for good at 60-58. His jumper with 3:15 left pushed the lead to four, and he answered Ezema’s layup with a layup of his own with 2:13 left and Cortland led 64-60.
Chasin made a jumper in the paint with just less than a minute left to cut Cortland’s lead back to two. Cortland called timeout with less than 10 seconds left on the shot clock to set up a play, and Morales made a shot with 26.7 seconds left to put Cortland back up by four.
Ithaca hung tough as Thompson hit two free throws with 16.1 seconds remaining, but Lydon made two foul shots at the 15-second mark. Chasin tossed in a layup with less than eight seconds left to once again keep the Bombers within a bucket before Cooper hit the two charity tosses to wrap the contest.
Cortland shot 52 percent from the floor in the second half, and 6-of-12 from 3-point range, after being held to just 33 percent shooting in the first half. Ithaca also warmed up after a 33 percent first-half shooting effort to make 48 percent of its second-half attempts. Both teams finished with 10 turnovers, although Cortland committed only two in the second half to Ithaca’s seven.
Cortland will host SUNY Canton Saturday at 2 p.m. in a non-league matchup.