MOUNT VERNON – The 11th-ranked Rams treated a big home crowd to a dazzling first half of basketball and cruised past Carroll, 73-52, Friday night in the semifinals of the Midwest Conference Tournament.
Top-seeded Cornell (23-1) advances to play No. 2 seed Monmouth (20-4) for the championship at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Small Multi-Sport Center. The winner earns the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Monmouth, the 2012 MWC Tournament champion, moved on with a 66-48 victory over St. Norbert. Cornell beat the Fighting Scots twice in the regular season, including a 71-53 home decision on Jan. 15.
The Rams make their fifth trip all-time to the MWC title game, having dropped the previous four such encounters. Cornell last played for the conference tournament championship in 1988.
Cornell took control early against the fourth-seeded Pioneers (13-9), who led for all of 44 seconds in this one. The Rams raced to a 15-6 lead, sank six three-pointers in the first half and built a 41-22 cushion by intermission. Cornell held a commanding 28-12 rebounding advantage in the opening 20 minutes.
Chelsea Harris provided an instant spark off the bench, scoring 11 of her career-high 16 points in the first half. The junior guard popped in three three-point goals and went 5-of-7 from the foul line to lead all scorers in 22 minutes of work.
Harris' third trey of the game put the Rams ahead 25-12 with 7:29 to go in the first half. Taylor Dicus converted a conventional three-point play that pushed the margin to 37-18. The lead ballooned to 59-30 on a pair of Harris free throws with 8:30 remaining, and Cornell's starters were done for the night.
Senior Camille Marie delivered 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting and also had five rebounds. She became the 12th player in MWC history to go over 1,400 points in a career, now with 1,408.
Dicus enjoyed a perfect shooting night (5-of-5 field goals, 3-of-3 free throws) and finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Freshman Kellie Kuzmanic dished out a game-high six assists, all in the first half. Maggie Hogen contributed seven points and seven rebounds off the bench. Larissa Brewer added six points and four boards.
The Rams limited Carroll to 24.3 percent shooting for the game. The Pioneers connected on just 8-of-43 field goals in the second half.
Cornell recorded its 12th victory of at least 20 points this season. The Rams have now won 15 straight games at home.