MOUNT VERNON – Picked near the bottom in the Midwest Conference, Cornell's women's basketball team finished at the top. And with plenty room to spare.
Coach Brent Brase's 14th-ranked Rams blitzed by Beloit, 82-59, before the home fans Saturday and stamped a rousing 17-1 run through the league as MWC champions. Cornell (22-1), which claimed its last conference crown in 1982, became the winningest basketball team in school history, passing the 21-7 men's squad of 2008-09.
The Rams, projected eighth in the MWC Preseason Coaches' Poll, won the regular-season title by three games over second-place Monmouth (14-4 MWC). St. Norbert finished third at 12-6, five games back of Cornell.
Cornell posted an impressive scoring margin of +19.8 points in 18 conference games. Eight of the wins were decided by at least 20 points. The only hiccup was a 47-44 mid-season loss at St. Norbert.
Now it's on to a promising postseason for Cornell, which hosts the MWC Tournament Feb. 22-23 in the Small Multi-Sport Center. The top-seeded Rams play Carroll at 5 p.m. Friday, followed by the other semifinal at 7 p.m. between second-seeded Monmouth and third-seeded St. Norbert.
The championship game is 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23 in Mount Vernon. The MWC champion earns the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
The Rams raced to their 14th consecutive home win on Senior Day, which featured a post-game tribute to four-year starters Camille Marie and Kathryn Schilling and key reserve Leonie de Jonge.
Marie, the program's all-time scoring leader, capped a fitting end to the regular season with 26 points – two shy of her career high – on 10-of-13 shooting from the field. The 6-foot-2 forward dumped in 20 points after intermission and finished 6-of-7 from the foul line.
Schilling collected 10 points, four rebounds and three assists in her school-record 93rd career start as a Ram. De Jonge made the only field goal she attempted – a three-pointer – and also had two rebounds in 15 minutes.
Taylor Dicus continued her strong play down the stretch with 11 points and 12 rebounds. It was her fourth double-double in the last seven games. Kellie Kuzmanic pitched in 12 points, five rebounds and five assists. Junior Chelsea Harris added six points, four rebounds and four assists off the bench.
Sophomore guard Rikki Mulloy reached a milestone with her 100th career three-point goal. Now with an even 100 treys in 47 games, Mulloy joined Tiffany Cowan (143 three-pointers, 2005-09) and Bindy Comito (114, 1998-02) as the only Rams to accomplish the feat.
Cornell scored 12 of the game's first 14 points against Beloit (4-19, 3-15 MWC) and took a 37-26 lead into halftime. The Buccaneers hung within nine points with 12 minutes to go in regulation. The Rams then pulled away with a 10-0 run and later built their biggest lead at 80-55.
The Rams outscored Beloit's bench, 25-2, and held a 39-26 advantage on the boards. Cornell shot 52.6 percent from the floor and hit 17-of-19 free throws.