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Cornell Men Win Ivy League Basketball Title
Created: 3/1/2008 9:43:36 PM

Courtesy: Cornell Athletic Communications

ITHACA, N.Y. -- It was a night 20 years in the making and eight years in production. On the night Cornell clinched its first outright Ivy League title since 1988, Steve Donahue saw everything he might have envisioned when he took the Big Red head coaching job eight years ago. With a sold-out Newman Arena crowd backing an undefeated championship team, the Cornell men's basketball program became the first Division I men's team to clinch a berth in the 2007-08 NCAA tournament with an 86-53 victory over Harvard on Saturday evening.

The victory clinches the fifth outright conference title in school history, joining the 1912-13, 1913-14 and 1953-54 EIBL championship squads and the 1987-88 Ivy title-winning team. It will also make Cornell a three-time NCAA tournament qualifier, previously competing in the championships in 1953-54 and 1987-88. Cornell improved to 20-5 with the win, matching the 1950-51 squad for most wins in a season (20). The team also extended its win streak overall to 14 games, the second-longest active winning stretch in the country, and ended a 19-year run of Penn and Princeton dominating the Ivy League landscape.

After needing a near miracle finish in the first meeting between the teams just 15 days ago, the Big Red played arguably its most complete game of the season in methodically picking apart the Crimson. Cornell shot 56 percent from the floor and placed five in double figures offensively with 16 assists and just nine turnovers, while holding the Crimson to 24 percent shooting, including a 5-of-21 night from the 3-point arc, and had seven steals and seven blocked shots.

Junior Adam Gore had a team-high 14 points, including hitting four 3-pointers, while sophomore Ryan Wittman added 13 points and six rebounds and classmate Louis Dale had 12 points and eight assists in the victory. Sophomore Andre Wilkins hit all four of his field goals for 11 points in just six minutes of action and junior Jeff Foote rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points, seven rebounds and a career-best four blocked shots. On Senior Night, the Big Red's lone senior was outstanding as Jason Hartford notched eight points, six rebounds, a block and a steal after being honored in a pregame ceremony.

Cornell was never in danger in the second half as anticipation built throughout the night with a frenzied crowd ready to celebrate an invitation to the biggest event in college sports. The Big Red led by more than 25 points throughout the final 20 minutes, and as the horn sounded, the Newman nation student section stormed the court as the Cornell team cut down the nets.

Harvard got 10 points from Brad Unger and nine points from Evan Harris, Andrew Pusar and Dan McGeary. Drew Housman notched eight points for the Crimson, who slipped to 8-20 (3-9 Ivy).

As has been the case for much of the Ivy season, the challenger burst out of the gates on fire, taking an early five-point lead on two occasions before Cornell tied the game at 11-11. A layup by Foote on a pass from Dale gave the home team what would be the go-ahead basket for the Big Red. Harvard went to inbounds the ball after the basket, but it was intercepted by Geoff Reeves, who put in the goal for a four-point lead. That triggered a 34-9 run the rest of the half, with consecutive 3-pointers by Wittman over the span of 38 seconds pushing the lead over 20 with two minutes to play. A Gore trey, his third of the half, and a layup by Dale pushed the advantage to 25 (45-20) at the break.

The second half wasn't much different, as the Big Red was able to get its reserves in for much of the final nine minutes. The Crimson went to a full-court trap early i nthe half trying to create some havoc, but Cornell had little trouble finding open shooters, and a 3-pointer by Wittman and a jumper by Dale increased the lead to 30 with 1:23 into the second half. The lead never went below 24 the rest of the way. All 15 players on the active roster played at least four minutes with 13 finding the scoring column.

Cornell returns to action on Friday, March 7 at 8 p.m. when the Big Red faces Penn in a game that will be televised on CN8. The Big Red will be out to snap an 18-game losing skid to the Quakers at the Palestra when the two teams meet.

Related Schools: Cornell
Related Sports: Basketball
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