- Thursday, March 25 2010 -
NCAA East Regional Semifinals (at Syracuse, NY)
Kentucky - 62 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Final Rank 2nd by AP and 2nd by ESPN/USA Today]
Cornell - 45 (Head Coach: Steve Donahue) - [Unranked]
|Mark Coury (*)||13||0||2||0||0||0||0||1||1||2||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Halftime Score: Kentucky 32, Cornell 16
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Wake Forest 90 - 60|||||West Virginia 66 - 73|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Painted as the villain, UK ends Cornell's run
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Kentucky is the villain once again.
Painted as the big, bad bully on the block to Cornell's choirboy image the Cats survived a venomous atmosphere and physical play to grind out a 62-45 in front of 22,272 fans at the Carrier Dome. The victory ended the Big Red's fairy tale NCAA Tournament run and left the Cats just 40 minutes away from college basketball's grandest stage.
"We're supposed to lose, we're the bad guys, the dumb kids," freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins said of UK's public persona. "Just keep coming with the names and we'll keep coming out and playing basketball. It's just trash but we've handled it all season. We expect it. It doesn't bother us, if anything it helps us play better."
While America may have lost its sweetheart the Cats returned to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2005, pushing past the gutsy Ivy League school despite a horrid offensive second half. Defense, as it has done throughout the postseason for the Cats, carried the day.
The Cats spotted Cornell a 10-2 lead in the first five minutes, a replication of the blueprint the Big Red adhered to in knocking off Temple and Wisconsin in the first two rounds. As the Carrier Dome exploded with noise for the tiny Ivy League school UK calmly weathered the drizzle before unleashing a category five hurricane defensively on the stunned Big Red.
UK harkened memories of the 2002-03 defensive juggernaut that won 26 consecutive games, holding Cornell to only six points over the final 15:14 of the half. Of those points, two came on wide-open lay-ups off inbound plays and another on a goaltend as Cornell was unable to find any open looks. When the carnage ended UK had forced 12 turnovers (nine steals), produced 17 points off those miscues and held a 13-0 edge in fastbreak points.
"I've never seen us go at people like that," Cousins said.
The Big Red chipped away and cut the lead to 40-34 with 5:39 remaining, igniting a crowd filled with Cornell fans (its campus less than an hour away), as well as West Virginia and Syracuse fans hoping for UK to be eliminated. Despite scoring just 10 points in the first 15 minutes of the second half the Cats' defense was just good enough to hold the sweet shooting Big Red at bay until the offense could find a spark.
The Cats found their ignition switch in frontcourt stars Cousins and Patrick Patterson. The freshman Cousins rolled home a short hook shot, Patterson made two free throws (no small feat given was 2-of-10 from the line at that point) and Cousins got a putback bucket to push the lead back to 12 with 3:53 remaining.
"At the end we just said, 'Look, we're going inside, go to DeMarcus,'" UK coach John Calipari said. "We said, 'DeMarcus, you're going to have to make free throws because they're going to foul you. Can you make free throws?' He said he could."
Although Cousins made just 2-of-4 from the line in the final 3:20 his teammates cashed 10 straight to cap off a game that once again cements the Cats' status as public enemy No. 1.
"The thing is we can't control what people say so there is no point in getting mad about it or making comments back," senior forward Ramon Harris said. "All we can do is just play ball and let the people talk."
"It helped us stay more focused that people made a big deal about them," senior Mark Krebs said. "We're having fun and we love each other and are like brothers so if anyone wants to hate on that or put a bad spin on that it's their problem. We're just trying to win games."
Even as the villain.
Perry Stevenson dives for the ball
Patrick Patterson is surrounded by Cornell's Chris Wroblewski (#3), Jon Jaques and Jeff Foote
Cornell center Jeff Foote slams DeMarcus Cousins to the ground with a wrestling move, but inexplicably is somehow 'smart' enough to avoid being called for a flagrant foul