Cornell is first team to clinch NCAA tourney bid
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP)—Cornell is back in the NCAA tournament for the third straight year. This time, the brainy bunch plans to hang around for a while.
“We want to win. We want to advance,” coach Steve Donahue said. “I think we have the talent to do that.”
The Big Red became the first team this season to earn an NCAA bid, clinching its third consecutive Ivy League championship by beating Brown 95-76 on Friday night with a record-tying display of 3-point shooting.
Cornell (26-4, 12-1) made 20 of 30 attempts from 3-point range and held Brown to 30 percent shooting in the second half while cruising to their 24th victory in 26 games.
Cornell matched an Ivy League record for 3s in a game and increased its season total to 292, also a conference mark. In doing so, the Big Red wrapped up their fourth Ivy League title—securing the fifth NCAA tournament berth in school history.
But they’re still looking for their first win in the NCAAs.
Cornell has lost in the first round as a No. 14 seed in each of the last two seasons. The Big Red aspire for a stronger showing this year after setting a school record for wins and nearly upsetting then-No. 1 Kansas on the road Jan. 6.
“We know what to expect going into this tournament,” said Ryan Wittman, the school’s career scoring leader. “But experience alone isn’t going to allow us to advance.”
Donahue said this squad has shown it can compete with the top teams in the country in a way none of his clubs has before. This year’s team, he said, is Cornell’s deepest and most talented yet.
“I’m going to try for the rest of my coaching career to get a group like this, and I may never get there,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I won’t.”
The Big Red will have a chance to tie the conference record for wins in their final game of the regular season Saturday at Yale.
Jon Jacques led Cornell with 20 points and seven rebounds. Louis Dale added 18 points and eight assists, and Wittman had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
All five Big Red starters scored in double figures.
“Everyone was on at the same time,” Wittman said. “We just got in a rhythm offensively tonight, and it started going down for us.”
Peter Sullivan had 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting to lead the Bears (11-19, 5-8).
Cornell led 51-47 at halftime, establishing its 3-point shooting early in a frenetic first half. The Big Red made 11 of their first 13 attempts from beyond the arc, including eight in a row at one point.
“We have to practice 3s more than any team in the country,” said Jacques, who shot 6 of 8 from 3-point range. “Practice makes perfect.”
But Brown found success on the offensive end as well, shooting 59 percent from the field in the first half to keep the game close.
Cornell started the second half on a 14-4 run, however, and Brown never got within single digits again.