MOUNT VERNON – Cornell captured its first Midwest Conference women's basketball championship in three decades Saturday with a performance that signified a dominant return to the league.
The 14th-ranked Rams outscored Lawrence by 48 points over the final 27 minutes of a 93-47 trouncing before the home fans in the Small Multi-Sport Center. The win, coupled with a Monmouth 61-50 loss at Carroll, gave Cornell (20-1 overall, 15-1 MWC) the outright conference title with still a week left in the regular season.
Cornell clinched the No. 1 seed in the MWC Tournament, which will be played Feb. 22-23 in Mount Vernon. The champion of the four-team tournament receives the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Cornell celebrated its first conference title in women's basketball since 1981-82, when the Rams were co-champions of the Midwest Athletic Conference for Women (MACW) with an 8-1 league mark under first-year head coach Sarah Novak. Back then, the MACW was comprised of six teams. The Rams also claimed the MACW crown in 1979-80.
Coach Brent Brase's Rams doubled their win total from a year ago and became the second basketball team in school history to post a 20-win season. Mike DeGeorge's men's squad finished 21-7 in 2008-09.
The Rams, who rejoined the MWC after 15 seasons in the Iowa Conference, have outscored their new league counterparts by an average of 19 points through 16 games.
It took Cornell a while to get going against Lawrence (2-19, 1-15 MWC), which shot well early and held a 24-22 lead with 7:27 to go in the first half. The Rams turned it on just before intermission and were on their way to a 13th consecutive home win.
The Rams used a 26-2 spurt over a 6-minute stretch to build a 53-28 lead with 17:32 remaining. Sophomore Rikki Mulloy triggered the run, scoring 10 of her game-high 18 points in the final three minutes of the opening half. She finished with four 3-point goals, all in the first half.
Junior Chelsea Harris came off the bench to score 14 points behind 3-of-4 shooting from long range. Kathryn Schilling had 12 points and a game-high five steals. Taylor Dicus added 10 points and seven rebounds. India Pearce and Leonie de Jonge chipped in eight points apiece.
The Rams had all 12 players score a field goal, and 10 record at least one assist. Cornell tallied 43 bench points, to Lawrence's five.
Cornell, which led 42-28 at halftime, shot 52.6 percent for the game and made 21-of-29 free throws. The Rams outrebounded the guests, 39-27.
Coming up – Cornell travels to Grinnell (10-11, 8-8 MWC) Tuesday, and then concludes the regular season at home Saturday, Feb. 16 against Beloit (4-17, 3-13 MWC).