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Sweet 16 Bound!!! C-U in Syracuse

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Courtesy: Cornell Athletic Communications

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For the first time since 1979, an Ivy League team will go dancing into the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. For the first time ever, that team's name is Cornell.

Playing arguably its best all-around game of the season, Cornell led from wire-to-wire and dominated No. 4 seed Wisconsin 87-69 on Sunday afternoon at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The Big Red set an Ivy League record for wins in a season in improving to 29-4, while the Badgers saw their season end with a 24-9 record.

Against one of the nation's stoutest defenses, the Big Red shot 61 percent from the floor and made 53 percent from beyond the arc (8-of-15), scoring the most points of the season against Wisconsin and shooting a higher percentage than any of its foes all year long. Senior Louis Dale scored a career-high 26 points and classmate Ryan Wittman chipped in with 24. Lost in the celebration was that Wittman became the fifth player in conference history to surpass 2,000 career points. He ended the night with 2,018 points. Both Jeff Foote and Chris Wroblewski scored 12 points in the victory.

After opening the tournament 3-63 all-time against teams ranked in the top 25, Cornell has now secured two straight double digit wins over squads in the top 20 in a span of 72 hours.

"You know, I just thought in all my coaching, all the experience I had on any team that I ever played on, this game here was as well executed that I couldn't even imagine that we could play that well in the stretches that we did," said hed coach Steve Donahue said moments after the Big Red's victory. "That's not to say that I don't think we can play that well, I just have so much respect for Wisconsin and how hard they play, how well they defend. These guys did a remarkable job of staying poised throughout every single possession, had great confidence and great awareness for each other and just executed on both sides of the ball as well as you can do."

Cornell held a 29-21 advantage on the glass and turned the ball over just eight times while posting 14 assists. Mark Coury, who will get to play his former team at Kentucky in the East Regional semifinal, had four points and two rebounds, while Adam Wire (six rebounds), Alex Tyler and Geoff Reeves did yeoman's work off the bench with their energy and poise.

"Cornell did everything that they've been pretty much doing all year," said Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan. "They found different ways to score on us, and it's tough when you shoot 52 percent in the first half and you're still down 12, and you've taken away Foote, and three of the 3-pointer that they hit were off of offensive rebounds. So in our half court defense, we thought we did some pretty good things. That's how good they are. They can beat you in so many different ways. So I give a lot of credit to Steve and especially the development of that team with all the seniors and the way they played off of one another. That was something that once you got behind to them, it made it very, very difficult to get back, and good teams will do that to you."

Wisconsin got 23 points from Jon Leuer on 8-of-12 shooting, while Jason Bohannon had 18 points. All-Big 10 guard Trevon Hughes scored 10 points, but turned the ball over six times. The Badgers shot 49 percent from the floor themselves, but made just 4-of-15 from beyond the arc after halftime (27 percent) as Cornell stretched its lead.

The Big Red jumped out on the Badgers early, taking an 11-1 lead less than three minutes in. Wittman got Cornell off, hitting shots on the team's first two possessions, followed by a steal and end-to-end basket by Jon Jaques, who had nine points and two steals. The higher seeded Badgers methodically cut the deficit to 24-21 with seven minutes left in the first half, but Foote got to the free-throw line and connected on one, then after a missed layup on the other end, Wire found Wittman from a 3-pointer to push it back to seven. Ryan Evans momentarily got the lead back to five when Hughes hit him for a jumper, but a basket by Wroblewski, followed by a pair of free throws by Coury made the Cornell lead nine. It would never dip below seven the rest of the way.

The second half was all Cornell, as it hit on backdoor cuts, found open men for 3-pointers and slipped screens for dunks. The lead ballooned to as many as 24 with seven minutes to play (78-54) and Dale's constant ability to get into the lane and finish held the Badgers at bay. The senior ended the second half with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting.

The Big Red will now face No. 1 Kentucky on Thursday, March 25 at a time to be announced at Syracuse's Carrier Dome.