MOUNT VERNON - Freshman Kellie Kuzmanic
dished out a school-record 12 assists and the Rams hit big shots down the stretch to hold off a feisty Carroll squad, 64-61, in Midwest Conference women's basketball action Tuesday night in the Small Multi-Sport Center.
Cornell continued its best start in program history, climbing to 8-0 overall, 4-0 in the MWC. This was the closest call to date for the Rams, who had taken care of their first seven foes by an average margin of 22.6 points.
The game featured eight lead changes in the second half and saw the Rams trailing by a point with less than five minutes to play. Cornell responded with a 13-3 run that provided just enough cushion in the end.
Sophomore center Taylor Dicus poured in a career-high 24 points, eight of them coming during Cornell's decisive spurt which included a key 3-pointer by Kathryn Schilling and a pair of free throws by Camille Marie. Dicus finished the flurry with two foul shots that bumped the lead to 60-51 with 1:17 remaining.
Carroll (3-4, 2-2 MWC) cut the margin to 62-59 on a 3-pointer with 14 seconds to go. Rikki Mulloy then sealed it for the Rams by knocking down two free throws to cap a 13-point night.
Kuzmanic had an exceptional floor game for the Rams, distributing the 12 assists with only one turnover in 27 minutes. The 5-foot-10 forward broke the school mark of 10 assists, shared by three players and last set by Brianna Wallace in a 2007 game against Mount Mary.
The Rams shot lights out in the second half, draining 16-of-22 field goals for a 72.7-percent clip. Carroll, however, outscored Cornell 47-43 after intermission in large part to 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.
Cornell, which led 21-14 at halftime, finished the game shooting a season-high 56.8 percent from the floor. Dicus converted 10-of-14 field goals and went 4-of-4 from the foul line. She also posted a game-high eight rebounds.
Marie went 5-of-6 from the field and tallied 12 points. The 6-foot-2 senior moved to within 18 points of the program's career scoring record. Schilling chipped in 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting.
The Rams outrebounded the guests, 32-27. Cornell turned the ball over 19 times, to Carroll's 12.
The Pioneers were led by Hilary Arthur's 22 points off the bench.
National polls - Cornell gathered more votes in two national polls released Tuesday. The Rams were recognized in the D3hoops.com Top 25 Poll with 34 votes, four more than the previous week. The team received two nods in the USA Today Sports Division III Coaches' Top 25 Poll.
NCAA Rankings - Cornell entered Tuesday's contest as the Division III leader in rebound margin at +16.6 boards per contest. The Rams ranked fourth nationally in field goal percentage defense (28.2), seventh in assists (18.3 apg) and 11th in field goal percentage (45.2).
Dicus is No. 1 in Division III with a glossy 78.8 field goal percentage. Junior guard Chelsea Harris ranked fifth nationally in assist/turnover ratio at +3.71.
Coming up - The Rams step outside the league Saturday, Dec. 15 to play Augsburg (3-4) in a 3 p.m. tip-off in Minneapolis, Minn.