MOUNT VERNON – Cornell's women's basketball team is off to nationals for the first time in school history. But in fact, the Rams aren't going anywhere.
Cornell earned a bid to host a four-team regional during the opening weekend of the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Tournament. The first two rounds of the 64-team tournament will be played Friday-Saturday, March 1-2, at 16 campus sites across the country.
The 11th-ranked Rams (24-1) make their tournament debut against St. Scholastica (13-14) at 7 p.m. Friday in Mount Vernon. Friday's other first-round game pits St. Thomas (22-5) against fourth-ranked Calvin (23-3) at 5 p.m.
The two winners play at 7 p.m. Saturday. All three games will be held in the Small Multi-Sport Center, where the Rams are 15-0 this season.
General admission is $6 for adults, $3 for senior citizens, students and children.
The regional champions advance to the round of 16 March 8-9 at campus sites to be determined. The Final Four is March 15-16 in Holland, Mich.
Click here for a complete bracket of the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Tournament.
Coach Brent Brase's record-breaking Rams represent the Midwest Conference as regular-season and tournament champions. Cornell, which finished 17-1 in MWC play, clinched the league's automatic berth with a 63-52 victory over Monmouth in Saturday's MWC Tournament Final.
St. Scholastica, of Duluth, Minn., earned its first-ever NCAA berth by winning the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Tournament as the No. 4 seed. The Saints upset top-seeded Minnesota Morris in the semifinals, 83-78 in overtime, and then claimed a 76-67 win over Martin Luther in Saturday's championship.
Junior forward Erin Frase, the MVP of the UMAC Tournament, leads St. Scholastica in scoring at 13.9 points per game. Mariah Hovick (10.3 ppg), Danica Schellbach (9.9 ppg) and Caitlin McKernon (9.5 ppg) round out a balanced attack. The Saints have come on strong since starting the season 3-10.
St. Thomas, of Saint Paul, Minn., received an automatic berth as tournament champion of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Tommies make their 20th all-time appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Calvin, of Grand Rapids, Mich., was the regular season co-champion of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Calvin is back in the NCAA field for the 15th time.
Cornell carries a nine-game winning streak into the tournament, beating opponents by 23.9 points per game during the stretch. The Rams rank among the Division III season leaders in field goal percentage (46.6, second), assists (17.7 apg, seventh), rebound margin (+12.0 rpg) and three-point field goal percentage (35.7, 10th).
The team's balanced offensive attack features three double-figure scorers, led by senior Camille Marie's 13.3 points per game. Sophomore Rikki Mulloy, who netted 17 points in the MWC Tournament championship, averages 13.0 points, followed by sophomore center Taylor Dicus at 12.2.
Dicus is shooting a school-record 63.6 percent from the field and leads the Rams at 8.6 rebounds a game. Freshman Kellie Kuzmanic has totaled 106 assists (4.2 apg), eight shy of Cornell's single-season mark. Mulloy heads a handful of capable outside shooters with 50 three-point goals. Kuzmanic and Chelsea Harris have hit 34 and 31 three-pointers, respectively.
The Rams own an impressive scoring margin of +19.6 points per game, which ranks 14th nationally. Only five of the team's games have been decided in single digits, including a 47-44 road loss to St. Norbert Jan. 19.
The last Cornell basketball team to play in the NCAA Tournament was Mike DeGeorge's 2008-09 men's squad, which bowed out in the first round to UW-Stevens Point. Cornell's last basketball win at nationals was by the men's team in the 1961 Division II Tournament.