Cornell battles Kentucky in Sweet 16

March 25, 2010

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Syracuse, NY (Sports Network) – The “Cinderella” Cornell Big Red, the 12th seed in the East Region, will attempt to upset the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats in the Sweet 16 of the 2010 NCAA Tournament tonight.

The winner of this contest will move on to the Elite Eight to do battle with either the second-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers or the 11th-seeded Washington Huskies.

Cornell is the first Ivy League team to reach the round of 16 since 1979, a tremendous accomplishment to say the least. The Big Red, who are 29-4 overall, had never won an NCAA Tournament game prior to the start of this year’s event. After beating fifth-seeded Temple by a 78-65 final in the first round, Cornell was even more dominant in the second round, easily handling fourth-seeded Wisconsin, 87-69. The Big Red have set the Ivy League single-season wins record, but coach Steve Donahue’s group is still hungry for more and refuses to view itself as an underdog despite Kentucky’s prowess.

Speaking of the Wildcats, they are led by first-year head coach John Calipari, and he boasts quite possiblly the nation’s most talented starting five. Three of the starters are freshmen, and while youth can be a detriment, Kentucky has been dominant through the first two rounds of this event. After crushing 16th- seeded East Tennessee State to open play, 100-71, the team rolled past ninth- seeded Wake Forest by a 90-60 final on Saturday. The Wildcats are making their record 50th NCAA Tournament appearance and own a 100-44 record in the tourney. They are 34-2 overall this season and won both the SEC regular season and tournament titles.

The Big Red won their only previous meeting with the Wildcats way back in 1967.

Cornell is led by Ivy League Player of the Year Ryan Wittman, who is scoring 17.8 ppg on the strength of his 43.0 percent shooting from three-point range. While that efficiency from behind the arc is tremendous by most standards, it actually leaves Wittman slightly below the curve in regard to the team’s overall accuracy. The Big Red are connecting on 43.4 percent of their three- pointers, staggering to stay the least, and they are netting 75.8 ppg while holding opponents to 63.4 ppg on 41.8 percent shooting from the floor. Louis Dale, Cornell’s point guard, provides 12.6 ppg and 144 assists against a mere 66 turnovers. As for Jeff Foote, a 7-0 center, he checks in with 12.4 ppg and 8.1 rpg. Taking a look at the 18-point win over Wisconsin, the Big Red shot a stellar 61.1 percent from the floor, including 8-of-15 from three-point range. Dale led the charge with 26 points, and Wittman added 24 points. Foote and Chris Wroblewski pitched in 12 points apiece for Cornell, which earned a 29-21 rebounding advantage and only committed eight turnovers.

Kentucky freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins may be the two most talented players in the nation. Wall, a dynamic point guard who recently garnered SEC Player of the Year honors, is scoring 16.8 ppg to go along with 228 assists and 60 steals. As for Cousins, a bullish power forward, he is posting 15.1 ppg and 10.0 rpg to complement his 67 blocked shots. Fellow forward Patrick Patterson is sometimes overshadowed by the rookies, but his 14.6 ppg and 7.2 rpg shouldn’t be overlooked. The third freshman starter in the fold is Eric Bledsoe who brings 11.4 ppg to the floor. Kentucky is posting 80.1 ppg while limiting opponents to 65.3 ppg on 37.9 percent shooting. In the 30-point blowout of Wake Forest, it was Darius Miller, the only starter not averaging double figures in scoring, who led the squad with 20 points. Cousins added 19 points and eight boards for the Wildcats, who shot 60.3 percent from the field and limited Wake to 32.8 percent efficiency.


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