MOUNT VERNON – Cornell dribbled out the final seconds of its 63-52 victory over Monmouth in Saturday's Midwest Conference Tournament Final to chants of "Conference Champs!" from the home fans in the Small Multi-Sport Center.
The Rams are also NCAA Tournament bound.
Top-seeded Cornell (24-1) celebrated a remarkable turnaround and historic 19-1 run through the conference with the program's first NCAA berth in 40 years of women's basketball. The Rams received the league's automatic bid to the Division III Tournament, which begins with first- and second-round games March 1-2.
Pairings for the 64-team tournament will be revealed on the Division III Women's Basketball Selection Show at 1:30 p.m. (Iowa time) Monday on NCAA.com. Cornell stands a strong chance to host one of the four-team regionals at 16 different sites across the country.
Coach Brent Brase's Rams, winners of nine straight games, are ranked 11th in the USA Today Sports Top 25 Coaches' Poll, No. 14 in the D3hoops.com Poll. Cornell is No. 1 in the Central Region rankings.
The Rams captured their first-ever conference tournament crown in their fifth title game appearance. Cornell took down No. 2 seed and defending MWC Tournament champion Monmouth (20-5) for the third time this season.
Rikki Mulloy tossed in 17 points and freshman Kellie Kuzmanic flirted with a triple-double (10 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds) to lead the Rams to their 16th consecutive home win. Cornell broke away with a 14-2 run midway through the first half and led by as many as 26 points in the second half.
The Fighting Scots hung tough early, leading 14-13 with 11:08 to go in the opening half. Cornell took control moments later with a series of three-point goals. The Rams forged ahead on a Kuzmanic three-pointer, followed by a Mulloy jumper and three-point goal. Chelsea Harris connected from long range and Mulloy added another triple that pushed the score to 27-16 with 7:50 left in the half.
Cornell led 39-24 at halftime and built its biggest lead at 54-28 with 11:04 remaining.
Cornell got strong play from its bench, led by Larissa Brewer's season-high 10 points – all in the first half. The 6-foot-3 freshman finished 5-of-6 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds in just 11 minutes.
The Rams once again dominated the glass with a 47-32 rebounding edge. Cornell held the Fighting Scots to 35.6 percent shooting, including 3-of-13 from three-point range. The Rams shot 41.4 percent from the field.
Marla Willard paced Monmouth with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
|MacMurray College vs||4:00pm|
|UW-La Crosse Tournament|
|UW-La Crosse Tournament|
|Grinnell College at||7:30pm|