Cornell laughing all the way to the Sweet 16

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A half-dozen of Louis Dale’s teammates huddled around a TV in Cornell’s locker room waiting to see if the Big Red’s point guard actually would go through with it.

The it was dropping the team’s favorite quote from the movie “Friday Night Lights” at the postgame news conference just moments after 12th-seeded Cornell secured a Sweet 16 berth by routing fourth-seeded Wisconsin 87-69 in an East Region second-round game Sunday.

“We’ve got eight seniors on this team, and we want to take this ride as long as we can because after this it’s just nothing but babies and memories, so we’ll just keep going,” Dale said.

After the “babies and memories” part, teammates Ryan Wittman and Chris Wroblewski, sitting next to Dale on the podium, covered their faces in laughter.

Ryan Wittman scored 24 points against Wisconsin.
Kim Klement/US Presswire

Meanwhile, the crowd in the locker room erupted.

“He said it! He said it!” center Jeff Foote yelled.

This was the second time in four days Cornell faced the nation with giggles. Thursday, Foote took the first question from a local columnist. He disregarded the question about academic requirements and instead talked about the ride into the stadium and the police escort.

Cornell’s players struggled to hide their laughter then, too. Foote had lost a bet earlier in the day and had to answer the first question incorrectly; Dale chimed in to answer the question seriously, and Foote later apologized to the columnist.

Is this a normal occurrence, avoiding the cliché; player-speak and showing off the team’s camaraderie?

“We normally don’t have any press conferences,” Dale said.

That’s going to change. That’s what happens when Cornell, the Cinderella darling from the Ivy League, romps past Temple and Wisconsin on the way to the Sweet 16. In Syracuse, N.Y. – 45 miles from its campus – Cornell will take on college basketball royalty in Kentucky. If Cornell somehow were to beat Kentucky, it would be the biggest NCAA tournament upset since George Mason stunned Connecticut in 2006.

Frankly, after the past two games, there’s no reason to doubt Cornell’s offense. These Ivy Leaguers can play. Cornell scored 78 points against Temple. Two days later, the Big Red put up 87 on Wisconsin. Cornell outscored its two opponents by a combined 31 points, shooting 58.8 percent from the field and 44.7 from 3-point range, absolutely toying with two of the best defensive teams in the nation.

Like Temple, Wisconsin tried and tried but found no answer for Cornell’s offense. The Badgers went to their bench for more height to use against Wittman (24 points), but that didn’t work. At the same time, Dale darted around the Badgers to score 26 points. Wroblewski finished with 12 points. So did Foote, a 7-foot former walk-on at St. Bonaventure.

That’s 74 points from four players, against a team that gave up that many points in a game just twice this season – and not since Dec. 9.

Certainly, this was cause for celebration.

“If you take it too seriously, it’s not fun anymore,” Foote said.

Babies and memories can wait. Kentucky can’t.

David Fox is a college football staff writer for Follow him on Twitter.
Updated Sunday, Mar 21, 2010