SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Cornell Big Red are still dancing and hope to continue their run by defeating the top seed in their region, Kentucky, Thursday night in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Steve Donahue's team, a 12 seed, won its first ever games in the Big Dance last weekend and are the first Ivy League team to make it this far since 1979.
But to beat the Wildcats, the Big Red will have to do what it does better than anybody in the country, shoot effectively from the outside. Cornell has hit 321 of 739 shots (43.4%) from beyond the three point arc.
"We need to play Cornell basketball, coach D always says and it's true. You just got to be unselfish, cover up the ball, make extra passes, obviously make shots. When we do that, we're playing at our best," said tri-captain Jon Jaques.
"Play smart. They have the tendency to run the score on you when you make careless turnovers, so we just have to take care of the ball, shoot the ball like we know we can," added senior forward Andre Wilkins.
While Kentucky may be the favorite in this matchup, the Big Red haven't come from out of nowhere. This is a team that's made three straight NCAA tournament appearances, and they blew out higher seeds Temple and Wisconsin in their first two games this year.
Kentucky coach John Calipari knows how dangerous Cornell is. "I think they'll score and look to score off the first or second pass if you let them, and if not they'll wind it down. And if they have to shoot a late three over top of hands from beyond the NBA line and swish it they will. I mean, they're good."
The Big Red will also have a lot of fans at the Carrier Dome, since it's a short drive from their home in Ithaca. "I think a lot of Cornell fans and the public are going to come out to this game because of the national attention, it'll be great to have a sea of red with the fans," said sophomore guard Chris Wroblewski, the 2009 Ivy League Rookie of the Year.
UK should also have a large fan base at the Dome as well, and will be led by John Wall, the freshman point guard expected to be the first pick in this June's NBA Draft. Along with Wall, the Wildcats have DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson up front, with Eric Bledsoe helping Wall in the backcourt.
But Cornell is focused on the task at hand. "Continue to play our game, not really worry about what they're doing. If we keep shooting the way we've been shooting, that will help, obviously quite a bit," said junior forward Adam Wire.
The Big Red have a few big names of their own, with Ivy League Player of the Year Ryan Wittman, along with big man Jeff Foote down low and Louis Dale helping out Wittman outside. Wittman, Dale and Wroblewski, Cornell combined have hit 208 three pointers this season.
It's already been a magical season for the Big Red, but they're hoping to continue their ride past Kentucky, followed by another victory Saturday over West Virginia or Washington, and head to Indianapolis for the Final Four next weekend.