SYRACUSE - The beginning was everything Cornell could have dreamed during the past week as it attempted to visualize beating Kentucky in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament East Regional last night at the Carrier Dome.
It started with 7-foot center Jeff Foote trading baskets with Wildcats center DeMarcus Cousins before Cornell ran off the next eight points.
Ryan Wittman hit a three-pointer followed by an 18-foot jumper by Louis Dale and then a three-pointer by Dale that sent the predominantly red-clad crowd into a spasm of ecstasy. Cornell was up 10-2.
Do you believe in miracles? Uh, no. At least not one of this magnitude. Not against a Kentucky team with 10 players 6-6 or taller and all of them very athletic.
When reality hit, it hit hard, as Kentucky outscored Cornell 30-6 in the rest of the half and polished off a 62-45 victory that put the Wildcats in tomorrow's East Regional final against West Virginia.
Cousins led Kentucky with 16 points. Eric Bledsoe scored 12, Patrick Patterson had nine points and 12 rebounds, and John Wall had eight points and eight assists. Dale topped Cornell with 17 points and Wittman added 10.
After the Big Red's charmed first five minutes, Kentucky scored 12 straight points to take a 14-10 lead. Foote then dunked off an inbound pass to make it a two-point game with 11:06 left in the first half. But that was about as good as it got for Cornell.
From there, Kentucky finished the first half on a 18-4 run for a 32-16 lead. During that span, the Big Red shot 2-for-8, including a goaltending call, and committed nine turnovers. The Wildcats' 18 points in the run included 14 on layups and dunks.
Kentucky's player of the year candidate, Wall, didn't even have to be that good. He didn't score until 2:55 was left in the first half, but he had plenty of help as eight Wildcats put points in the boxscore. Only three Cornell players scored.
It didn't take a Cornell math major to figure out how lopsided things were at halftime when Kentucky had huge advantages in points in the paint (24-6), points off turnovers (17-2), fast-break points (13-0) and bench points (8-0). The Big Red had one offensive rebound at halftime.
In the second half, Cornell showed its spunk with a 13-2 surge that cut Kentucky's lead to 40-34 when Dale hit a three with 5:39 left. But that was as close as the Big Red got to a miracle.