Cornell Season Comes to an End, Ivy League Still Witnesses History in the MakingMarch 6, 2011 —
Photo by Dave Burbank
A Cornell win over Yale Saturday night promptly ended the Big Red’s streak of three consecutive Ivy League titles, ending a woeful season full of fresh faces, heartbreak and no dancing in March.
What the Big Red could dance about was knowing seniors Mark Coury, Adam Wire and Aaron Osgood ended their Cornell careers with a win, and three straight wins en route to a disappointing 10-18 finish.
However, the disappointing season was after four of five starters from last season’s Sweet 16 team graduated, coach Steve Donahue left for the Boston College coaching job and 11 of the 18 players on the Big Red roster were underclassmen.
Further, Cornell had lost 10 of its 18 games by five points or less and six by three points or less. Wipe away 10 losses, and the Big Red would have finished the season 20-8, fulfilling the third place finish media outlets predicted before the season.
Rubbing more salt on the wound of heartbreak, Big Red opponents hit go-ahead baskets in the final minutes of six games (St. Bonaventure, Lehigh, Binghamton, New Hampshire, Yale and Princeton). The game against Yale Feb. 4 in New Haven, Conn. was the biggest heartbreak for the Big Red as the Bulldogs overcame a 10-point deficit in the final 1:58 to stun the Big Red 71-70.
But the Big Red (10-18, 6-8 Ivy League) received a bittersweet taste of redemption in a 68-55 victory over the Bulldogs (15-13, 8-6) Saturday night. The Big Red held the Bulldogs to 35 percent shooting from the floor, including 13 percent (2 for 15) from three-point range.
The most impressive and convincing stat of the night was Cornell’s second unit. The Big Red outscored the Bulldogs 42 to 8 in bench points, giving fans a compelling reason to believe this revamped squad has the utmost potential to once again be Ivy League contenders.
So while the NCAA Selection Committee will not be penciling in Cornell in the field of 68 this season, the Big Red can hold their heads up high, knowing they closed out the season with three straight wins, and gave Wire, Coury and Osgood something memorable for their senior campaign as they finished their collegiate careers.
And while the last three pieces of Cornell’s three Ivy League championships trickle away like beads of sweat down an athlete, the Ivy League can not only lock a team’s golden ticket to the NCAA Tournament, but witness history in the making.
328 miles away in Cambridge, Mass., Harvard’s 79-67 win over Princeton ensured the Crimson at least a share of the Ivy League title for the first time ever, and kept the Crimson alive to secure the Ivy League’s automatic berth to the field of 68.
The Crimson (23-5, 12-2) have not played in the NCAA Tournament since 1946, before the conference namesake came into existence. Led by former Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker, the Crimson can win the Ivy League title outright if Princeton loses to Penn on March 8.
However, if the Tigers (23-6, 11-2 Ivy League) prevail, the Tigers would share the title with the Crimson and play in a one-game playoff for the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s almost a gift to have another game on Tuesday,” Princeton coach Sydney Johnson said. “It’s just a blessing to have another game to play.”
Or two games? It took the Princeton an extra five-minute session the last time the Tigers played the Quakers on Feb. 8, as the Tigers edged out a 62-59 overtime victory in Princeton, N.J.
Should Princeton beat Penn on Tuesday, the Ivy League would consider Harvard and Princeton co-champions, with the winner of a one-game playoff at a neutral site Friday or Saturday earning the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
What is history in the making is whether or not the Tigers or Crimson would be able to receive an at-large berth into the tournament, which has never happened before. But considering the Tigers and the Crimson had soft non-conference schedules, it seems highly unlikely two Ivy League teams would make the tournament.
So although the Big Red’s Ivy League supremacy may have come to an abrupt halt Saturday night, the Ivy League continues to make history. The Big Red made history by becoming the first Ivy League team since 1979 to make it to the Sweet 16, but also made history by winning its first NCAA Tournament game in the program’s history.
The Crimson have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over 60 years. That’s pretty historical. You can almost guarantee come Tuesday night, the people of Cambridge will suddenly become Quaker fans.