MOUNT VERNON – One basket stood in the way of the Rams and a trip to the Sweet 16. That's the special season it was for Brent Brase's 2012-13 Cornell women's basketball team.
First-time NCAA qualifier Cornell battled tournament-tested St. Thomas to the final possession, but saw its historic run end with a 53-52 loss in a second-round regional nail-biter Saturday night before a full house in the Small Multi-Sport Center.
The 10th-ranked Rams, regular-season and tournament champions of the Midwest Conference, finished with a school-record shattering 25 wins, and only two defeats. Cornell went 16-1 on its home court, which included a 76-54 victory over St. Scholastica Friday in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament.
"It was a great run, a wonderful experience for everyone," Brase said. "We gave ourselves a chance, but unfortunately came up short in the end against a pretty darned good St. Thomas team. I'm really happy for our seniors and our team to play two NCAA Tournament games on our home floor. We'll keep building what we have established on and off the court."
St Thomas (24-5), which placed third at nationals a year ago, moves into the Sectional Round of 16 March 8-9. Friday marked the Tommies' 58th NCAA Tournament game, while Cornell was playing its second.
The Tommies built a 47-42 lead with 8:20 to go, although Cornell charged back to tie it on two free throws and a three-pointer by sophomore Rikki Mulloy. St. Thomas pushed ahead 53-49, but the Rams answered again with a three from freshman Kellie Kuzmanic that made it 53-52 and brought the fans to their feet with 1:58 remaining.
Cornell then came up with two big defensive stops, including a key block by Kuzmanic that ultimately gave the Rams possession after a timeout and nine seconds remaining. Needing to go the length of the court, Mulloy dribbled down the right side and pulled up at the wing. Her contested three-pointer rimmed short right and St. Thomas corralled the loose ball as time expired.
Mulloy led all scorers with 16 points. Kuzmanic chipped in 12 points and six rebounds.
Sophomore center Taylor Dicus had a big game with 10 points and 15 rebounds – seven offensive – for her seventh double-double of the season. Senior Camille Marie finished with eight points and nine rebounds. Senior Kathryn Schilling had six points and four assists.
The Rams held a 45-31 advantage on the boards, although turned the ball over 23 times against St. Thomas' pressure. Cornell shot 35.3 percent from the field, while limiting the guests to 32.8 percent.
Cornell scored the first seven points of the game and led 9-2 four minutes in. The Tommies built their biggest lead at 22-17 with 5:03 to go in the opening half. The score was 25-25 at halftime.