Ivy League’s Cornell cuts down another big seed

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Cornell players jumped up and down near midcourt, exchanging chest-bumps and high-fives, then ran toward their fans.

And stood around.

Forgive those Ivy League guys for not knowing how to celebrate. After all, they’ve never experienced anything like this before. Then again, maybe they’re waiting for something bigger and better.

Either way, the Big Red made a big statement on college basketball’s biggest stage Sunday. They might have something for Big Blue.

Louis Dale scored 26 points, Ryan Wittman added 24 and No. 12 seed Cornell upset fourth-seeded Wisconsin 87-69, becoming the first Ivy League school since Penn in 1979 to advance to the Sweet 16.

“You can’t sleep on us,” Dale said.

The Big Red (29-4) will play top-seeded Kentucky in the East Regional semifinal Thursday in Syracuse, N.Y., about an hour from Cornell’s campus. It could be a tough ticket, though, since Kentucky’s basketball-crazed fans got a head start when their team advanced Saturday.

“Maybe all the Syracuse fans bought tickets and can help us out,” said Cornell coach Steve Donahue, whose team played close games on the road this season against fellow No. 1 seeds Kansas and Syracuse.

Cornell wasted little time. The Big Red controlled things from the opening tip, picking apart Wisconsin’s vaunted defense the way they did Temple in the opening round.

Cornell had a 12-point lead early, a 20-point lead late and very few areas of concern between.

Jon Leuer led the Badgers (24-9) with 23 points, including the team's first 12. But Wisconsin’s problem was defense, as Cornell shot 61 percent from the field, 53 percent from three-point range and dominated in every area.

# 2 West Virginia 68, # 10 Missouri 59: Da’Sean Butler handled Missouri’s pressure defense just fine and led the second-seeded Mountaineers past 10th-seeded Missouri.

Michael Dixon scored 15 points for Missouri (23-11), which was undone by poor shooting. The Tigers went 20-for-61 from the field and were also bad from the free-throw line, where they went 12-for-20.

West Virginia (29-6) advances to face No. 11 seed Washington in the East Regional semifinals at Syracuse on Thursday. It marks the fifth time that West Virginia has reached the final 16, and first since 2008.

The Mountaineers never trailed after taking an 8-0 lead 2 minutes in. The Tigers stuck close, clawing back to get within three points at 56-53 with 4:36 left when Zaire Taylor hit a three-pointer, but got no closer.

Big time for Big Red

Cornell’s success in the men’s NCAA Tournament is just the biggest of many recent sports highlights for the Ithaca, N.Y., school.

Men’s basketball: First Ivy team to reach Sweet 16 since 1979.

Women’s hockey: Reached Sunday’s NCAA final (lost 3-2 to Minnesota-Duluth in triple OT).

Men’s hockey: Won the ECAC tournament Saturday. NCAA tournament begins Friday.

Men’s wrestling: Finished second at the NCAA championships Saturday with freshman Kyle Dake winning at 141 pounds.