Friday, February 29, 2008

Ivy League Champions! Cornell Crushes Dartmouth 75-59


February 29, 2008

Box Score

Photo Gallery (Photos by Patrick Shanahan)

ITHACA, N.Y. -- The Cornell men's basketball team clinched a share of the Ivy League title with a dominating second-half effort in a 75-59 victory over Dartmouth on Friday evening at Newman Arena. The win improved the home team to 19-5 (11-0 Ivy), while the Big Green slipped to 9-16 (3-8 Ivy). The championship is the first since the 1987-88 season and just the fifth league title of any kind in program history. Cornell can become the first team in the nation to earn an automatic bid to the 2007-08 NCAA men’s basketball tournament with a victorytomorrow night against Harvard, or a Brown loss to Penn.

Sophomore Louis Dale had 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to lead the home team, while Ryan Wittman added 14 points, including 10 after halftime. Junior Jeff Foote had 11 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots while blocking up the middle in the win. Cornell held a decisive 48-28 edge on the backboards and shot 66 percent from the floor in the second half to pick up the victory. Adam Gore chipped in with eight points and three assists, while Geoff Reeves had seven points and three rebounds.

Dartmouth was led by Elgin Fitzgerald's 15 points, while DeVon Mosley chipped in with 11 points. The Cornell defense held the Big Green to 39 percent shooting in remaining unbeaten in Ivy play. Team leading scorer Alex Barnett, who missed the first game between the two teams, was held to seven points on 3-of-14 shooting, but added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

The Big Green kept the game close through much of the first half, but a follow-up jumper by Dale at the halftime buzzer sent the home team into the break with a 32-27 lead. Cornell lead 19-9 11 minutes into the game after an 8-0 spurt was triggered by a Foote half-hook off glass followed by 3-pointers by Reeves and Gore. A pair of turnovers and a rare missed free throw by Wittman turned into five quick points to push it to 19-14, then a missed front end of a one-and-one quickly turned into an Elgin Fitzgerald basket. Feeling the turning momentum, Gore cashed in on a great pump fake, drawing a foul on a 3-point attempt and canning all three efforts from the charity stripe, part of a 5-of-12 day from the line by the team that entered the contest leading the country in free-throw percentage. Dartmouth cut it to three, but Dale hit a 16-footer after rebounding a Wittman missed trey to send the home team to the locker room with momentum.

Dale led the way for the Big Red at halftime with nine points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal in 14 minutes of action. Foote added four points, six rebounds and two blocked shots to the cause. Elgin Fitzgerald led the tally sheet for the Big Green with 11 points and four rebounds, while Barnett had all seven of his points in the first 20 minutes.

It got much better after halftime for the 4,227 fans in attendance, as the Big Red opened the half on a 23-7 run that knocked the wind out of Dartmouth’s sails, turning a meager five-point lead into a 21-point bulge over the first eight minutes. A pair of thunderous dunks by Foote, including the second on an alley-oop pass from Wittman, whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The lead grew to as many as 25 before the visitors went on a late 10-2 run for the final advantage.

With the victory, Cornell improved several streaks, including winning uts win streak to 13 games, the longest by the Big Red in 43 years. The 13-game win streak remains the second-longest in the country behind only Davidson (18 games). The 11-0 record in conference play is the team's best since that same 1964-65 squad also opened with that mark.

Cornell goes for its first NCAA tournament bid in 20 years tomorrow when it meets Harvard at 7 p.m. at Newman Arena.



Box Score

ITHACA, N.Y. (AP)—Louis Dale scored 22 points and had 11 rebounds and Ryan Wittman added 14 points as Cornell beat Dartmouth 75-59 Friday to clinch a share of the Ivy League title for the first time since 1988.

Brown’s 64-57 win over Princeton means Cornell (19-5, 11-0 Ivy) must wait a day to try for the Ivy League crown with a win over Harvard on Saturday.

Since Cornell’s 1988 championship season, only Penn and Princeton have won the league title. It’s the first time Cornell has had 11 league wins since the 1964-65 season and now has a 13-game winning streak, second-longest in the nation to Davidson’s 17-game streak.

Elgin Fitzgerald led Dartmouth (9-16, 2-9) with 15 points and DeVon Mosley added nine. Cornell held Dartmouth’s leading scorer Alex Barnett to just seven points.

Cornell’s Jeff Foote scored 11 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as the Big Red dominated the Big Green on the boards 48-28.

Leading 32-27 at halftime, Cornell built a 23-point lead on a 25-5 run in the second half. Foote, Cornell’s 7-foot center, had two slam dunks to start the run five minutes into the half and Dale hit two 3-pointers the next two Cornell possessions.

Cornell closes in on NCAA berth
HoopsWorld.com

March 1, 2008

ITHACA, New York (Ticker) -- Cornell clinched a share of a rare Ivy League title on Friday and will have a chance to win the championship outright on Saturday night.

One of two Division I teams to be undefeated in league play along with Memphis, the Big Red routed Dartmouth, 75-59, to claim a share of their first Ivy League title in 20 years.

Cornell (19-5, 11-0 Ivy) was denied sole possession of the conference crown when second-place Brown (16-9, 8-3) defeated Princeton on Friday night.

That victory may have just delayed the coronation 24 hours for Cornell, which can wrap up its first Ivy championship since the 1987-88 season by beating Harvard at home on Saturday night.

The Big Red, who swept the season series with Brown following a 74-65 road win last Saturday, also would be the first team to seal a berth in the NCAA Tournament with either a victory or a loss by the Bears.

The Ivy League is the only Division I conference that does not have a postseason tournament, so the regular-season champion earns one of the 31 automatic berths in the 65-team field.

Cornell last appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 1988. Prior to that, the only other time it played in the "Big Dance" was 1954.

The Big Red, who have won their last 13 games, are the last team other than Princeton or Pennsylvania to represent the Ivy League in the NCAAs.

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will make 34 at-large selections to complete the field of 65, which will be announced on March 16.

Cornell a step closer to title Red clinches a share of Ivy title by beating Dartmouth; Brown outlasts Princeton

Cornell's Louis Dale looks for room to shoot the ball between Dartmouth's Alex Barnett, left, and Clive Weeden during the first half of their game Friday evening at Newman Arena. The Big Red won, 75-59.

ITHACA — Sophomores Louis Dale and Ryan Wittman snapped Cornell out of its first-half shooting funk, and 7-foot center Jeff Foote punctuated a decisive 14-0 run with two transition dunks as the Big Red cinched up a share of the Ivy League title Friday night with a convincing 75-59 victory over Dartmouth.In front of nearly sold-out Newman Arena, Cornell inched closer to its first NCAA tournament berth since 1988 on the strength of Dale's monster night. Busting out of a shooting slump, the 5-foot-11 point guard finished with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting while grabbing 11 rebounds and handing out six assists

His sly, one-handed dish to Foote on the break resulted in an emphatic two-handed slam, sending the crowd of 4,224 into a frenzy as Cornell's lead surged well into double digits. “They always say you've got to reward the big man when he runs the floor,” said Dale, who finished with just two turnovers.

Second-place Brown beat Princeton, 64-57, on Friday to keep its slim title hopes alive. Cornell (19-5, 11-0 Ivy League), whose winning streak reached 13, can capture the title outright tonight with a win over Harvard (8-19, 3-8), or by beating either Penn or Princeton next weekend — or if Brown loses another game. That would give the Red the title, regardless of what Cornell does.

A title for Cornell would end Penn and Princeton's 20-year reign of league championships.

“I didn't know that. Is that true?” Cornell coach Steve Donahue joked in the post-game press conference. “It's obviously something that keeps creeping in my mind. I try to put it back away and just let the routine of the day take place.”

Cornell, which entered the game ranked in the top 10 nationally in field-goal shooting, 3-point shooting and free-throw shooting, did none of those things well in Friday's first half. The hosts shot 42 percent and missed nine of 11 from beyond the arc. While Cornell struggled, Dartmouth (9-16, 2-9) kept things close behind 11 points from forward Elgin Fitzgerald.

But Dale livened things up at the first-half buzzer, picking up a loose ball and draining a desperation heave from inside the arc to send Cornell into the locker room with a 32-27 lead.

“That follow-up was a big play,” Donahue said.

Dale then opened the second half with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Wittman (14 points) followed suit with three quick buckets, doubling Cornell's lead.

That's when Foote changed the game.

After his first dunk forced Dartmouth coach Terry Dunn into a timeout, the junior center — who nearly missed the game with a bacterial infection — provided a worthy encore.

Wittman chased down a defensive rebound and pushed the ball up the right wing. On the opposite side, Foote streaked toward the basket, leapt and finished off Wittman's alley-oop pass for a resounding dunk. He finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. That bucket exemplified Cornell's offensive execution in the second half, which featured 65.5 percent shooting by the hosts.

“Anytime you have a seven-footer that can run the floor as he can, as he does, it adds to your offense, particularly transition,” Dunn said. “It puts a lot of pressure on your big guy.”

Said Donahue: “We see that all the time in practice. He's always the first guy sprinting down the floor.”

Wittman's defense helped hold Dartmouth leading scorer Alex Barnett to seven points on 3-of-14 shooting.

That kind of defensive effort will be needed again at 7 tonight against a high-scoring Harvard team that Cornell stunned in the final seconds, 72-71, two weeks ago. Harvard is 0-14 on the road this year.

“I just can't allow myself or my team to go that way,” Donahue said. “We've got such a hard game (today).”

Cornell's Brian Kreefer is fouled by Dartmouth's Elgin Fitzgerald as he looks to shoot in the first half of their Ivy League game Friday evening at Newman Arena. The Big Red beat the Big Green, 75-59, but failed to clinch the outright Ivy League title as second-place Brown beat Princeton, 64-57.

Cornell's Jeff Foote high fives the crowd after Cornell beat Dartmouth 75-59 Friday at Newman Arena.

DartmouthSports.com
February 29, 2008

ITHACA, N.Y. – Dartmouth men’s basketball fell 75-59 to the Cornell on Friday, Feb. 29, when it took on the Big Red in Newman Arena.

Sophomore Elgin Fitzgerald (Colorado Springs, Colo.) put a team-high 15 points on the board for the Big Green with one assist. Junior Alex Barnett (St. Louis, Mo.) pulled down a game-high seven rebounds, followed by Fitzgerald and captain Johnathan Ball (Memphis, Tenn.)) with four apiece.

Defense ruled as the game began. Although the Big Green did not score until nearly two minutes in, Cornell had even more difficulty sinking its first shot. At 15:57 left to play, the score was still just 4-4.

From then on, Cornell was able to stay ahead of Dartmouth for most of the first half, but the Big Green was never far behind.

Although a trey from Ronnie Dixon (Danville, Ill.) tied the game up at 26 with 2:25 left to play, the Big Red was able to pull ahead again. Still, it was still anyone’s game, as the Big Green trailed by just five going into halftime, 32-27.

Cornell came out strong in the second half, however, quickly driving up the score. By 9:25 left to play, the Big Red had built up a 21-point margin, 62-41. Although Dartmouth was able to close the margin slightly, at the final buzzer, Cornell had won 75-59.

The Big Green travels to New York tomorrow to take on the Columbia Lions at 7:00 pm.

Former Cornell Player, Shawn Oliverson Transfers Down South

Former Cornell Basketball player, Shawn Oliverson has reportedly signed a letter of intent with Louisiana Tech. As a freshman at Cornell during 2004-2005, Oliverson appeared in 11 games, playing 2.1 minutes per game in those appearances.

Come Join the Discussion...

We are giving it an experimental test run. Come join the discussion of Cornell Basketball with The Cornell Basketball Blog's Community Forum (by clicking here). A red link is also available near the top right corner of this blog. Membership to the Forum is free and very easy to join and use. Post as often as you want! Start your own topics! We hope you join the conversation!

Video Clip Highlights


Cornell Athletics Announcement


ITHACA, N.Y.—
Cornell’s Red Key Athlete Honor Society will team up with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ithaca and Tompkins County on Saturday evening at the Cornell’s men’s basketball game against Harvard.

In the midst of a historic season in which the Cornell Men’s Basketball team can clinch its first Ivy League championship and NCAA tournament bid in 20 years, Newman Nation has never been so proud. Every home game sees Newman Arena filled to its capacity with dedicated fans who stand and cheer for every Louis Dale 3-pointer or Jeff Foote slamdunk.

Cornell’s Red Key Athlete Honor Society has teamed up with the ‘Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ithaca and Tompkins County’ to provide young fans from the Ithaca community a chance to watch the Cornell Big Red men’s basketball team in action. This Saturday, March 1, twenty children ranging from ages 6-12 will be able to sit in the stands with their Big Brother Big Sister sponsor to watch Cornell play Harvard in what will certainly be a night to remember. Before the game, the children will be able to meet and talk with their favorite players on the basketball team, who are role models for many of their young fans. They will then have the chance to be a true Cornell fan and cheer on the home team towards an Ivy League championship season. Afterwards, the children will depart with memorabilia that will commemorate the evening as one to remember for many years to come.

Members of the Red Key Society will be active participants in the evening ensuring that dinner is provided for the children and sponsors, and overseeing the events to guarantee that everyone has a great time.

This event hopes to be the first of many between the ‘Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ithaca Youth Bureau’ and the Red Key Honor Society.

For information on how to get involved with becoming a sponsor for Big Brother Big Sister of Ithaca and Tompkins County email Joe Gibson at onetoone@cityofithaca.org or visit the Red Key Honor Society Website at www.CornellBigRed.com

Big Red in USA Today


Brian Delaney's article from the Ithaca Journal, previewing tonight's Dartmouth game, was picked up in today's USA Today. We posted Delaney's article in this weekend's Game Preview Center.

Big Red Brackets Update

Below are links to the updated projections of the 2008 NCAA Tournament brackets.

Cornell RPI Update

Cornell continues to improve the program's all-time best RPI rating. As of Friday, February 29, 2008, Cornell's RPI is No. 69 out of 341 Division I teams, according to KenPom.com.

Last season's Ivy League champion, Penn, finished with a No. 89 RPI rating.

HoopsWorld.com: Cornell aims for NCAA berth


HoopsWorld.com
February 29, 2008

ITHACA, New York (Ticker) -- Cornell can clinch a share of a rare Ivy League title on Friday as it continues a bid for an undefeated conference season.

One of two Division I teams to be undefeated in league play along with Memphis, the Big Red host Dartmouth as they aim to inch closer to their first Ivy League title in 20 years.

With a win over the Big Green, Cornell (18-5) can clinch a share of the title, which it last won in 1987-88. It also can claim the crown outright if second-place Brown (15-9, 7-3 Ivy) loses to Princeton on Friday.

The Big Red, who swept the season series with Brown following a 74-65 road win on Saturday, would also be the first team to seal a berth to the NCAA Tournament with the combination of those two results.

The Ivy League is the only Division I conference that does not have a postseason tournament so the regular-season champion earns one of the 31 automatic berths to the 65-team field. Cornell last appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 1988. Prior to that, the only other time that they played in the "Big Dance" was 1954.

The Big Red, who have won their last 12 games to stand 10-0 in league play with four games remaining, are the last team other than Princeton or Pennsylvania to represent the Ivy League in the NCAAs.

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will make 34 at-large selections to complete the field of 65, which will be announced on March 16.

"March to Madness" with the Ithaca Journal's Brian Delaney



By Brian Delaney
The Ithaca Journal
February 29, 2008

Mike Dement, head men's basketball coach at North Carolina Greensboro, was a busy man last night. His Spartans hosted Chattanooga in a key Southern Conference Northern Division game (which they won), and retired the number of standout senior Kyle Hines.

So, of course, 12 hours later, Dement was talking Cornell hoops.

For those up on their Cornell history, Dement was coach of the 1988 Big Red championship team. Despite his hectic schedule, Dement said he's kept a close eye on the Sports Ticker every weekend for the last five weeks.

He was in Ithaca in the fall and met Steve Donahue's team. He may be Cornell's biggest fan this weekend in North Carolina.

"I wish I could be there for that atmosphere tonight in that building," Dement said. "We had that a number of times in Barton Hall. That atmosphere was great. I can only imagine" what it will be like.

More to come on Dement over the weekend.

Cornell Basketball in the News

Below are some references to Cornell Basketball in the news media today. Pictured above, Cornell's Ryan Wittman stares down Duke on January 6, 2008.

NOTE: Get all the information you need about the Big Red's upcoming game on Friday vs. Dartmouth with The Cornell Basketball Blog's Game Preview Center. As the Dartmouth game approaches, we will be adding relevant articles and stories to the Game Preview Center. Let us know your thoughts on the upcoming games by either leaving a comment to this post or sending us an email (CornellBigRedFan@gmail.com). Also, check out The Cornell Basketball Blog's Community Forum (click here). Go Big Red!


By Josh Perlin
Cornell Daily Sun
February 29, 2008

Madness? THIS IS SPARTA … I mean ITHACA!

I am not even kidding: if there has ever been a time to show your school spirit and attend a Cornell sports event, this is it. Cornell sports are absolutely amazing this Friday through Sunday.

You have a chance to see three teams with projected NCAA entrants: that’s three teams with some of our nation’s best athletes, right here, at Cornell!

THIS IS BLASPHEMY!

Cornell sports … advancing on a national level?

(“[Cornellians]! What is your profession?”) Men’s basketball can clinch its first Ivy title in 20 years today or tomorrow. A women’s basketball road sweep would all-but clinch its first-ever Ivy title. Men’s hockey is facing Harvard at home — on Senior Night — fighting for a first-round bye and/or the third seed in the ECAC Hockey playoffs. Eighth-seeded women’s hockey travels to face the No. 1 nationally ranked Crimson for the Red’s first playoff series in five seasons (“Immortals: we’ll put their name to the test.”). The track teams host Heps — Ivy championships — at Barton Hall tomorrow and Sunday, with the women looking for their 13th consecutive title.

(“Give them nothing! But take from them ... everything [a.k.a. their title hopes]!”)

An Ivy championship in basketball means selection in the NCAA tournament, as well as a giant supplement in The Sun. A top-4 seed in men’s hockey means we’re a game closer to the NCAA tournament already. A series win over league-undefeated Harvard would mean our women’s hockey team can beat anybody in the country. (“Their numbers will count for nothing.”) At Heps, anyone can be a provisional qualifier for NCAAs at any time …

And I’m leaving out men’s lacrosse battling for a top-5 national ranking, women’s lacrosse looking to avenge its 2007 loss to Rutgers, and baseball and softball kicking off their campaigns — all away games this weekend.

THIS IS MADNESS!

But fear not Cornellians: I have planned the days out for you (and myself). Whether you want to show your Cornell pride by fitting a game into your schedule, or you’re a hardcore fan wants to see it all, here’s the how and why for each game:

Tonight, join Newman Nation in cheering on men’s basketball. Cornell should sell out the place: there’s a chance that a win (with a Brown loss) will clinch Cornell’s championship. Not only will the place go nuts if that happens, it would be only the third time a school not named Penn and Princeton has won the title in 40 years (“… It’s not yours anymore.”). You want to be there for that.

(“[Princeton!] Come and get them.”)

Do all your celebrating tonight, because tomorrow has something for everyone, all day. At 11 a.m., Heps finals begins. If you have never been to the Ivy League’s biggest track meet and seen Cornell dominate, you definitely need to do that. (Actually, we are not even the favorites this year, Princeton is … so go see the upset.) Track meets are like hockey shootouts or dunk contests: the excitement and tensions is palpable at every turn of every event.

(“Ready your breakfast and eat hearty … for tonight, we dine in [CORN-HELL a.k.a Lynah Rink and Newman Arena]!”)

Take some time to yourself in the afternoons — do your work or follow the away games online — since the evening is when things will get crazy. Somehow, men’s hockey’s Senior Night was scheduled on the same night as the Harvard game, at the same time as men’s basketball’s likely Ivy-clinching victory.

How are you supposed to pick between the two games?

It’s simple: don’t. Go back-and-forth between them. That’s what I’m doing.

Madness?

THIS IS SPARTA … I mean [CORNELL] SPORTS!

---

Finally, tonight is my last night as The Sun’s Sports Editor and the last night of The Sun’s 125th Editorial Board. Thank you everyone for reading: I hope you enjoyed what you saw and that we served you well. I promise you’ll like what you see even more in the coming weeks and months.

Good night and good luck.



By Kevin Maher
WTVH CBS-TV Syracuse
February 29, 2008

ITHACA, N.Y. — Heading into the 2007-08 season, Cornell was the preseason favorite among most college basketball publications and the media that covers the Ivy League’s eight institutions. This weekend the Big Red will attempt to make all of those prognosticators clairvoyant by claiming a share of the Ancient Eight title, a goal it will accomplish with a win over Dartmouth on Friday, Feb. 29, at 7 p.m. at Newman Arena.

Cornell enters the weekend with a three-game lead over second-place Brown with four games to play and would clinch a title share by completing a season sweep of the Big Green. The Big Red can clinch the outright title with a win over Dartmouth coupled with a Brown loss to Princeton. That game will also tip-off on Friday at 7 p.m.

Sophomore Ryan Wittman (15.5 ppg., 4.3 rpg.) and classmate Louis Dale (12.7 ppg., 4.8 apg., 4.3 rpg.) pace Cornell in scoring for the second straight year, and along with 2005-06 Ivy Rookie of the Year Adam Gore (9.8 ppg.), form one of the top perimeter scoring trios on the East Coast. The Big Red ranks among the top 10 teams nationally in free-throw percentage (first, .788), 3-point field goal percentage (third, .419) and field goal percentage (eighth, .488).

Cornell enters the weekend with the chance to clinch its second Ivy League title in program history (1987-88) and a bid to the program’s third NCAA tournament. Holding a three-game lead over Brown and a four-game lead over Columbia and Penn with four games to play, here are the scenarios to clinch the Ivy crown.

• A Cornell win on Friday or Saturday would give the Big Red at least a share of the Ivy title.
• A Big Red win on either night, coupled with a Brown loss against either Penn or Princeton, would give Cornell the outright title and an automatic bid to the Big Dance.
• A Cornell sweep this weekend would give the Big Red the outright title regardless of other results.
• If Cornell is swept, the Big Red can still clinch at least a share of the title with a Brown loss, or can clinch outright with two Brown losses and one loss each by Penn and Columbia.


By Jim Mandelaro
Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY)
February 29, 2008

Dance party?
What: Cornell men's basketball nears NCAA Tournament berth.
Record: 18-5 overall, 10-0 in Ivy League play.
Scenario: Cornell has a three-game lead over Brown with four to play and can clinch the Ivy title (and an NCAA bid) with two wins this weekend, or one win and one Brown loss.
Last time in: Cornell hasn't been to the NCAAs since 1988.
Youth is served: The Big Red roster includes only one senior.
Top scorer: Sophomore Ryan Wittman (15.5 ppg), the son of Minnesota Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman.


The media predicted this months ago. History scoffed.

Last fall, writers and broadcasters who cover the Ivy League tabbed Cornell the favorite to win the conference title in men's basketball — and the automatic NCAA Tournament berth that goes with it.

Never mind that the Big Red hadn't won the Ivy since 1988, or that nobody other than Princeton or Dartmouth had sat atop the preseason poll in 19 seasons.

"We all knew if we worked hard and put in a lot of work, we'd have a chance to win the Ivy League," sophomore forward Ryan Wittman said.

They do, as early as this weekend in Ithaca.

Cornell (18-5 overall, 10-0 Ivy) could become the first team to seal one of the 65 NCAA bids that will go out March 16. The Big Red holds a three-game lead over Brown with four to play and could clinch the Ivy with home wins tonight (vs. Dartmouth) and Saturday (Harvard), or by winning one while Brown loses one.

That's right: Cornell, where countless senators, judges, diplomats, surgeons, journalists, scientists and astronauts studied, is about to go dancing with the stars from Duke, Tennessee, North Carolina and UCLA.

"It would be awesome," Wittman said, "but we've got some work left."

This would mark only the third trip to the NCAAs for Cornell, which advanced in 1954 and '88. The team managed only two winning seasons from '88 through 2006.

The Big Red's 18 wins are the most by the program since the 1968-69 club went 18-7. The school record (20-5 in 1950-51) is in jeopardy, and Cornell's perfect Ivy mark is its first in 33 seasons.

The Big Red is riding a 12-game winning streak, the second-longest active streak in Division I (Davidson has won 18 in a row). Cornell is amazingly young, with forward Jason Hartford (7.5 points per game) the lone senior. Wittman leads in scoring at 15.5, and seven different players have paced Cornell with game-highs.

"We can beat you in a lot of ways offensively," said Wittman, whose dad is Randy Wittman, head coach of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves. "Every guy on the court can shoot the ball, and we're an unselfish team that takes good shots."

In fact, the Big Red ranks among the top 10 teams nationally in free-throw percentage (first with .788), 3-point shooting (third, .419) and field-goal percentage (eighth, .488).

The secret to its success, however, is stingy defense. Wittman says back-to-back road losses to Bucknell (88-75) and Syracuse (80-64) in December woke the Big Red up to the necessities of playing good defense.

"We were trying to rely on outscoring people," the 6-foot-6 Wittman said, "and we realized that wasn't working. You have to be a defensive team, especially late in games. That's what going to win games.

"Ever since those two losses, we've been beating teams to loose balls and getting defensive stops late in games."

Cornell outscores opponents 76.4-68.3 and holds foes to .429 shooting.

Head coach Steve Donahue has steadily built this program from bottom up since taking over in 2000. The team went 7-20 and 5-22 in his first two seasons, then won 9, 11, 13, 13, 16 and 14 before putting it all together this season.

Donahue served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator under Fran Dunphy at Penn for 10 years and was instrumental in the Quakers winning six Ivy League titles in his last eight years there, advancing to the NCAA Tournament five times and earning national recognition with a top 25 ranking.

Donahue took a page from Penn's book and upgraded his team's non-conference schedule. Cornell regularly plays Syracuse, hosted eventual national runner-up Georgia Tech in 2003-04, and consistently plays teams from power conferences such as the ACC, Atlantic 10, Big Ten, Big East and Mountain West Conferences.

"We've bought into Coach's system, and it's all paying off for us now," Wittman said.

Donahue's philosophy is simple: "We want talented kids who are really passionate about basketball and are just really great people," he told the Cornell Daily Sun. "They are unselfish, they think team first."

Donahue runs a tight ship. The Big Red is not allowed to watch movies on the team bus following a loss. He's also superstitious, leaving his travel bag on the team bus until after the game, when he retrieves it. The reason? He doesn't want to think about leaving the gym until the game is over. If Cornell loses on the road, the coach sometimes keeps his suit on instead of changing into a sweatsuit as a sort of self-punishment.

Donahue also showed a softer side in November. Longtime Dartmouth sports information director Kathy Slattery Phillips died after a brief illness, and a comment page was started online. Donahue was the only head coach in the Ivy League to post his thoughts, saying "I'm so sorry to hear about the extremely sad news. I've been traveling to Dartmouth for 18 years and I can't imagine walking in to the gym and not being met by the always upbeat Kathy. The Cornell basketball program, like thousands of others who knew Kathy, will miss her dearly."

Donahue returned three All-Ivy Leaguers and eight of the top 10 players from last year's 16-win squad. Wittman was an unanimous first-team choice and was tabbed the league's best shooter and top NBA prospect by Lindy's magazine. Junior guard Adam Gore (9.8 ppg) and sophomore guard Louis Dale (12.7 ppg) were second-team picks.

The story of this team is as much about role players as it is stars. Like Jeff Foote, a 7-foot junior center from Lockwood (25 miles south of Ithaca) who is playing for the first time in two seasons after redshirting and then transferring from St. Bonaventure.

Foote is averaging 8.1 points and 5.8 rebounds and scored a career-high 18 points on — appropriately — Jeff Foote Day against Princeton.

Another steady player is Gore, the 2005-06 Ivy League Rookie of the Year who sat out last season with a knee injury. He has added another dimension to the potent perimeter and averages 9.8 for the year and 18 over the past two games.

Cornell's season hit an emotional high three weeks ago, when it knocked off Princeton and Penn (the Duke and North Carolina of the Ivy League) on successive nights. The Big Red hadn't beaten Penn in 10 years.

That was the coming-out party. Another party lies ahead, and it includes Dick Vitale, One Shining Moment and a spot on national TV.

Shall they dance?

Brown’s senior trio looking to go out in style

By Mike Szostak
Providence Journal
February 29, 2008

...And what a season it has been for seniors Mark McAndrew of Barrington, Damon Huffman and Mark MacDonald. They will not win the Ivy League championship — the loss at first-place Cornell last weekend took care of that — but they can finish second and with more victories than any team in Brown basketball history...

Barren times for teams in Northeast

By Mark Blaudschun
Boston.com/Boston Globe
February 29, 2008

...In the Ivy League, Penn and Princeton are having off years and filling the void is Cornell, which is looking to become the first Ivy League champion not named Penn or Princeton since Cornell won in 1988...

Cornell vs. Dartmouth Game Preview Center

Get all the information you need about the Big Red's upcoming game on Friday vs. Dartmouth with The Cornell Basketball Blog's Game Preview Center. As the Dartmouth game approaches, we will be adding relevant articles and stories to the Game Preview Center.

Cornell enters this weekend's games with the opportunity to clinch the Ivy League title and the nation's first bid to the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Holding a three-game lead over second-place Brown, here are the possible scenarios to clinch the Ivy crown.
  • A Cornell win on Friday or Saturday would give the Big Red at least a share of the Ivy League title, but not necessarily the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
  • A Cornell win over Dartmouth, coupled with a Brown loss to Princeton would give Cornell the outright Ivy League title and the NCAA Tournament bid on Friday evening. Permission to storm the floor! But even further, a Big Red win on either Friday or Saturday night, coupled with a Brown loss against either Penn or Princeton (on Friday or Saturday), would give Cornell the outright title and an automatic bid to the Big Dance.
  • Irrespective of Brown's results against Penn and Princeton, a Cornell sweep this weekend would give the Big Red the outright Ivy title and the automatic bid. Storm the floor and cut the nets!
  • If Cornell is swept this weekend by Dartmouth and Harvard, the Big Red can still clinch at least a share of the Ivy title with a Brown loss, or can clinch the Ivy title outright with two Brown losses and one loss each by Penn and Columbia.
Let us know your thoughts on the upcoming games by either leaving a comment to this post or sending us an email (CornellBigRedFan@gmail.com). Go Big Red!

Click here to see our related story, "A Cornellian Decision: Ice or Hardwood?"

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"March to Madness" with the Ithaca Journal's Brian Delaney


By Brian Delaney
The Ithaca Journal
February 28, 2008

Tough to tell, really. And that's exactly how Steve Donahue wants it.

"I fall back to my experiences with Penn and Fran Dunphy," he said after Wednesday's practice. "You never knew when you walk into that gym whether it was Oct. 20 or March 2, getting ready to play Nebraska in the first round of the NCAA's. You really don't. That's the sign of a good team. I try to stay with that focus. There's a routine, and you change it intelligently, to adjust to the time of the year, but in general, if somebody walks in that gym, they shouldn't know there's a difference, and that's kind of the approach I try to bring."

Donahue, who spent 10 years as an assistant to Dunphy, and who has helped coach several NCAA tournament Quaker teams, is the type of coach that keeps his practices open to media (Not that there were many reporters knocking down the door, truthfully, until this season. Actually, there still really isn't.) The one striking thing about Cornell's practices is how much shooting they do. You would think, considering they're the only Division I program ranked in the top 10 nationally in field goal percentage, free throw percentage and 3-pointer percentage, that they'd spend the majority of their time elsewhere.

Not so. I would wager that 4 out of 5 times upon walking in on a practice, the team is engaged in some sort of shooting drill. But not changing the routine much is apparently very important when facing a weekend filled with Ivy League title-clinching possibilities.

"We've done a pretty good job all year of making sure each practice is like the one before," Adam Gore said. "We've done a good job of staying focused every practice, so I don't think we've changed anything this week."

***
Friday's paper may seem like a college basketball insert. There'll be stuff on both Cornell teams weekends, and on the South Hill an update on the IC men hosting the Empire 8 tournament.

Oh yeah. Cornell hockey's got a pretty important weekend too, apparently. But if you care about that, read the tall kid's blog.

FoxSports: Steve Donahue National Coach of the Year Candidate

Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com ranks Cornell Head Coach Steve Donahue No. 19 among National Coach of the Year candidates. Goodman writes, "Usually, it’s Penn or Princeton atop the Ivy. Donahue has Cornell in the driver’s seat for the league title."

Regional Newspaper Taking Notice of the Big Red


By Jim Mandelaro
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
February 28, 2008

Cornell University could become the first Division I men’s basketball team to clinch an NCAA Tournament bid this weekend.

The Big Red is 18-5 overall and 10-0 in Ivy League play. Cornell holds a three-game lead over Brown with four to play and could clinch the Ivy with home wins Friday (vs. Dartmouth) and Saturday (Harvard), or by winning one while Brown loses one.

Cornell has won 12 consecutive games, the second-longest active winning streak in Division I. Davidson has won 18 straight.

The NCAA will announce the 65-team tournament on Sunday, March 16.

Read more about the Big Red men's basketball team in Friday's editions.

Andy Glockner Discusses Cornell on ESPN Chat











Below we pasted an excerpt from today's online chat session transcript with ESPN's Andy Glockner, an Ivy League alum. See what Glockner had to say about Cornell and the Ivy League race.

john--bethesda: Cornell will be the first ivy team not named Princeton or Penn to make the NCAA in over twenty years... can we win a game? what are cornell's chances to win a game?

Andy Glockner: (2:32 PM ET ) Unlikely, but it's a great story of patient building in Ithaca. Advance congratulations to Steve Donahue and the Big Red, who should be the first team into the NCAAs Saturday night, barring a big home upset by either Harvard or Dartmouth.

Cornell Athletics Announcement

ITHACA, N.Y. -- With the men's basketball team attempting to clinch its first Ivy League title in 20 years and the men's ice hockey team searching for a first round bye in the ECAC Hockey League tournament and playing its biggest rival this weekend less than 300 feet from each other, the excitement at Newman Arena and Lynah Rink will be at an all-time high. Here are some important things to keep in mind before heading to campus.

** Limited tickets are still available for both men's basketball games, while tickets to both the Dartmouth and Harvard hockey games for this weekend are currently unavailable. A limited number of tickets may go on sale Friday morning at 10 a.m. Check back Thursday afternoon for updates.

** Tickets for the hockey games will not allow you access into the basketball games and vice versa.

** Plan to arrive early for games on both nights, particularly for the hockey game vs. Harvard, as additional security measures are being taken to minimize the smuggling of fish into the rink. Entry will take longer than normal.

* Parking will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Parking is available in the Hoy Road parking garage and in lots along Campus Road between Kite Hill lot and B lot (click here to view map ... http://www.parking.cornell.edu/pdf/FSmap.pdf).

**The Crescent parking lot will only be available to season hockey ticket holders who have purchased a parking permit from Athletics.

**Handicapped parking is located in the metered lot adjacent to Bartels Hall.*

For information on purchasing tickets, call the Big Red Athletic Ticket Office at (607) 254-2327 or visit the ticket office on the first floor of Bartels Hall during normal business hours (10 a.m.- 5 p.m. weekdays or 1.5 hours prior to the games).

Cornell Basketball in the News

Below are some articles referencing Cornell Basketball in the news media today.

Ryan Wittman pulls up for a 3-pointer in transition as Adam Gore trails during Cornell's victory over Yale on Feb. 22. With four games remaining, the Big Red (18-5, 10-0) has a three-game lead in the Ivy League and can clinch a share of the title with a win on Friday over Dartmouth.



ITHACA — Five weeks ago, they were just expectations. This weekend, those expectations could become reality. Reality would mean history — and lots of it.

For the first time ever, both Cornell basketball teams enter the last weekend of February sitting on the same coveted perch: first place in the Ivy League.

On only two occasions has an Ivy League institution swept the basketball titles, dating back to the first crowning of a women's champion in 1974-75.

Princeton accomplished the feat both times, in back-to-back years: 1975-76 and 1976-77.

“It's hard to do this in one program, let alone two,” said men's coach Steve Donahue, who took over at Cornell in 2000 after 10 years as an assistant to Fran Dunphy at Penn. “To try and do it in the same year, it's kind of remarkable.”

The Big Red men (18-5, 10-0), holders of the second longest winning streak in Division I (12), own a commanding three-game lead with four games to play. They can clinch the program's first regular season title since 1988 with a home weekend sweep of Dartmouth and Harvard, or with a win Friday over Dartmouth coupled with a Brown loss to Princeton.

Cornell is 10-1 at home this year, while Dartmouth (9-15, 2-8) and Harvard (8-18, 3-7) are a combined 2-24 on the road. With no postseason league tournament, the regular season champion annually represents the Ivy in the NCAA tournament.

Since Cornell's 1988 championship season, only Penn and Princeton have done so.

For obvious reasons, Cornell would prefer to end that lengthy reign this weekend in the friendly confines of Newman Arena, where a rejuvenated student section, dubbed “Newman Nation,” has given the Big Red a sixth man it hasn't had in decades.

“To be 12-0 and have things wrapped up, it makes things a lot easier than having to lose a game or two and making it so you have to win next weekend,” said junior guard Adam Gore, who tallied 36 total points in last weekend's sweep of Yale and Brown. “It would just be a lot easier to get two wins this weekend.

“Especially for the fans here,” he added. “They've done a great job this year.”

Unlike the men's team, which was the media's preseason pick to win the Ivy, Cornell's women have risen above expectations.

The team's 17 wins this season, and nine in the league, are both program records, as is their current eight-game win streak. Earlier this month, they polished off their first home sweep of perennial powers Harvard and Dartmouth since 1994.

Cornell (17-6, 9-1) visits those two teams this weekend in what amounts to the biggest back-to-back league series in program history. Third-place Dartmouth (10-14, 7-3) will host on Friday, while defending champion Harvard (15-9, 8-2) awaits the Big Red on Saturday.

With a sweep, Cornell would clinch a share of the league title with an opportunity to win the championship outright against Penn on March 7 in Ithaca.

“It's funny, because two weeks ago, when it was Harvard-Dartmouth (in Ithaca), it was, ‘This is the biggest weekend in program history,'” said women's coach Dayna Smith, who like Donahue arrived after a stint as a Penn assistant. “And then last weekend, when we were up at Yale and Brown, when we were preparing for it, it was like, ‘This is the biggest weekend in program history.' So it seems like we've had a few of those this season.”

But none bigger than this one.

And for once, that goes for both teams.

Cornell's undefeated run through the Ivy League has brought fans, especially students, back to Newman Arena in droves. The Big Red hosts Dartmouth onFriday and Harvard on Saturday, with the opportunity to clinch its first league title since 1988.

Other hill plays basketball too


The Ithacan (Ithaca College)

I don’t particularly like Cornell.

Maybe it’s my inferiority complex of living in the shadow of an internationally-acclaimed Ivy League school. I feel like the Los Angeles Clippers, who share a city with the Lakers.

Maybe it’s the fact that if I think about Cornell, I think about people like Andy from “The Office.” Yes, we’re impressed that you go to Cornell, but you’re still a huge tool.

It’s probably somewhere in between generalization A and generalization B.

I’ve never had to rationalize these feelings to anyone or properly balance them out to actually define my stance on Cornell, pro or con. It’s abstract in the same way you might not like someone, and then six beers later you’re making out with them in a bathroom.

Do you like them now? Ask again later.

On Saturday night, the time came for all of my conflicted feelings about Cornell to manifest themselves in a single decision. Going to the Cornell-Brown basketball game, who do I root for?

Is it a sellout move to root for them? Yes, in the sense that I might pretend there is some sort of IC-Cornell rivalry. But to root against them just because I’m jealous of their Ivy League diplomas is more an indictment on my own self pity than on Cornell.

It sounds like a choice between Jurassic Park III and IV. One’s worse than the next.

The loyal Newman Nation who pack Cornell’s Newman Arena sees no such gray area. The Cameron Crazies they aren’t, but they certainly rock the arena. The student section gets shot-altering loud, and they’re on their feet for all 40 minutes.

More unexpected than anything, though, the Big Red are good this year; better than they’ve been in 20 years. They got a vote for the top 25 poll last week. That’s the Division I Top 25, and they’re one win away from punching their ticket to the Big Dance.

When you print out your bracket in March, Cornell will be on it — right next to Duke, UCLA and Memphis.

And when Cornell comes out as a 12 or 13 seed, I’ll be rooting for them because I’m on the bandwagon. It doesn’t mean I’m popping my collar or heading to Chi Psi tonight. It means I’m a fan of the Cornell basketball team.

It’s not that I’ve reconciled any of my internal turmoil as much as just getting swept up Saturday night. I don’t know if it was all the red or the 11 Cornell three pointers, but it was just plain fun.

And transplanted from Chicago to central New York, who else am I going to root for in March? Syracuse has NIT written all over them.


By Kartik Kesavabhotla
Columbia Daily Spectator
February 28, 2008

Two weeks of action remain in Ivy basketball, but for most who follow the league, there is little doubt as to who’s going to clinch the title. Cornell has an undefeated season on the line when it hosts Dartmouth this Friday and could potentially end the drama with a sweep this weekend.

It’s natural to go with the Big Red as the obvious choice to win the Ivy bid to the Big Dance, but I’m feeling like being a contrarian this week. Undefeated teams have not fared well down the stretch in most Ivy sports that I’ve been following recently—with Harvard football being the exception, and Yale football being exhibit A. Cornell will have to face every team’s best effort because the best team always carries a bull’s eye. Let’s take a closer look at what’s left on the docket for the Big Red.

The Ivy front-runner has two games left at home and two on the road. With five of their wins happening away from Ithaca, location hasn’t really posed a problem. But their two immediate home games this coming weekend aren’t exactly a stroll through the park.

Friday sets up a rematch with the Big Green, a team that really pushed Cornell late into the second half the first time they met two weeks ago. After taking a slim one-point lead into halftime, the Big Red was able to break away with about 10 minutes to go, spurred by a Jeff Foote layup. It was one of those “a win is a win” games that I’m sure Cornell would like to forget. Led by DeVon Mosley and Jonathan Ball, Dartmouth busted out of the gates with energy and proved to be a scrappy opponent. Coming off of a big win against Princeton on Saturday, the Big Green will probably be fired up again for this game as I’m sure they don’t want to end the season at the bottom of the cellar.

Next on the schedule is a match up against the Crimson, who are coming off of two impressive late season wins—one against Princeton in overtime and another in a high-scoring duel against Penn. If you think Dartmouth has some avenging to do, then I’m not sure what word would suit Harvard’s attitude about this game. They were up 71-66 with 42 seconds left the last time they played Cornell... and blew it. Sophomore Alex Tyler scored six clutch points from there on out to save the Big Red’s perfect season. It was anything but an easy win. Take out those six points and the Big Red was out-scored 42-32 in the second half, so Harvard clearly had an edge as the game progressed. As good teams often do, Cornell found a way to win and move on. Of course, Harvard, much like Dartmouth, has not found success on the road, so you should not expect a repeat performance. However, the Ivy League is always seems to bring out the unpredictable and no team is bad enough to be considered a pushover.

At the end of the day, I have to concede that Cornell could actually afford to lose both games and still win the conference by Sunday night. With Brown three games back and 0-2 against Cornell, a Bears loss could end up being the decider. Interestingly enough, the both schools play the same four teams (Princeton, Penn, Harvard, Dartmouth) and are both undefeated against that group. The Bears pulled out two nail-biters against '

Penn and Princeton two weeks ago, so their upcoming games are certainly no gimmes. The only scenario that could result in Brown clinching is if they win out and Cornell loses out—not likely, but I am holding out hope that this thing gets interesting, at least for one more weekend.

Harvard Plgued By Strings of Losses


By Kevin C. Reyes
Harvard Crimson
February 28, 2008

Sure, Harvard’s been on the unfortunate end of some tough draws. At Penn, the Crimson held a lead with three minutes to play before losing 73-69. The following night at Princeton, a close game down the stretch turned into a blowout as the Tigers outscored Harvard 10-1 in the game’s final minutes. Then, the mind-blowing loss to Cornell two weeks ago was the icing on the cake.

Up five with 42 seconds to play, the Crimson turned the ball over twice and gave up three buckets to fall just short of its upset bid on the Ancient Eight leader. The point? Harvard has generally played well, but it has had some unfortunate sequences turn into a poor Ivy record. But, these moments of brilliance—the Michigan game, and this past weekend, specifically—give Harvard hope for the future...

Sure, there are four games left in the season, and the Crimson does have one more chance to spoil Cornell’s perfect season on Saturday night. But this team is really playing for pride. They’re trying to show that Harvard will hustle, scrap, and fight.


By Kevin Meacham
The Daily Campus (UConn)
February 28, 2008

The Tampa Bay Rays, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and 2008 New England Patriots are examples of some of the most famous losing teams in history. Their losses transcend time, and leave them as side-splittingly hilarious punchlines for people like Jim Rome or Mike and Mike.

But it's time for all of those also-rans to move over into the relative winner's circle - because the New Jersey Institute of Technology just opened up a can of futility on all of them.

You may have heard fleetingly about NJIT on Sportscenter, but if not, here is the scoop: the Highlanders - of which there can only be one - of Newark, N.J. finished their regular season at a sterling 0-29 last Saturday. They are not the first team to ever pull off a masterful winless campaign, but they now hold the Division I record for most losses without a win in a season....Cornell almost doubled the Highlanders up, 64-33, on Jan. 15.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chatting with Kyle Whelliston














Kyle Whelliston, founder and editor of MidMajority.com and a regular column writer for ESPN.com, had the following to say during today's ESPN chat session:

Anthony (Long Island, NY):
Kyle, how is that Cornell has flown under the radar this entire season? In my opinion I think they are the best candidate to become a true cinderella(13 seed or lower) in the NCAA Tournament. Ryan Wittman is one of the best shooters in the country and he will help lead the Big Red to a 1st round victory in the NCAA Tournament.

Kyle Whelliston: (4:36 PM ET ) I really like that team, I followed the Big Red around for a weekend. What impresses me the most is they have guys who can score at every size, that to me is on[e] of the things that makes a mid-major dangerous. They won't get a very good seed, but they'll give some power-conference team a scare or more.