Cornell's academics may be far ahead of Kentucky's, as the media has made known by now, but despite their academic superiority, their class and sportsmanship lags behind. For all the hoopla about the "smart kids vs. the dumb kids" that the media manufactured, who would have guessed that it would be Cornell that would fail to exude any class before, after, or during Thursday night's game against Kentucky?
Prior to the game, Cornell's players made it clear that they were confident they could beat Kentucky. After all, they claimed that their early season games against the likes of Syracuse had prepared them for the athleticism that Kentucky possessed.
While they were wrong, there's nothing wrong with a little false confidence. However, there's a thin line between confidence and cockiness, and Cornell's players crossed it prior to the game against Kentucky.
Cornell senior forward Jon Jaques went as far to imply that Cornell was nearly as talented as Kentucky. "People make a big deal about it but I'm not sure how big of a talent gap there is," Jaques said. Really? Because Kentucky has five potential NBA lottery picks, and Cornell likely has no future NBA players.
That seems like a pretty big difference in talent.
Jaques' comment by itself is not much, but combine it with the actions of Cornell center Jeff Foote during Thursday's game and a pattern begins to emerge. Late in the second half with Kentucky leading by double digits and Cornell clearly flustered, Foote, quite simply, tackled DeMarcus Cousins. He took him down like a sumo wrestler in one of the more inexplicable outbursts of the tournament.
Jay Bilas, courtside color analyst for CBS, was calling for an intentional foul the moment the takedown occurred. Amazingly, the officials went to the monitor and determined that there was no intentional foul committed in a staggering display of incompetence on their part.
Nevertheless, Foote's takedown of Cousins was a clear cheap shot at a superior player, and could have easily led to an injury. Cousins endures enough punishment throughout a game as it is, and Foote's attack on him was a calculated move that further emboldened Cornell's surprising lack of class.
If you're still not convinced, Cornell coach Steve Donahue completed the circle after the game in the post-game press conference. Donahue refused to give full credit to Kentucky, stating, "In terms of the game itself, I thought Kentucky came out and played tremendous defense, understanding what our strengths were. Did a great job of taking us out of things. But I thought we also at times settled down and were able to run our offense, and for whatever reason, just missed shots that we normally make."
To anyone who watched the game, this comment is a bit surprising, as it was evident that Cornell's inability to make outside shots was directly attributable to Kentucky's incredibly solid and long defense on the perimeter.
Further, Donahue went as far as to predict the demise of Kentucky in the Elite Eight to West Virginia, who will meet them their on Saturday night.
"I think there’s a lot of positives about Kentucky, to answer the latter first. My concern is that I don’t necessarily think for 40 minutes that they may be able to handle this against a team like us that’s a little more longer and athletic with experience. Maybe the next game. West Virginia is terrific," Donahue said.
While that may be so, it seems a bit distasteful to predict the demise of a team that just manhandled your own for 40 minutes. In fact, it seemed as though Kentucky coach John Calipari had more nice things to say about Cornell than Donahue had to say about Kentucky, and Kentucky was exponentially better than Cornell on Thursday.
So, despite Cornell's ascension to the media darlings of the tournament, their actions on and off the court were unsportsmanlike at best and arrogant and classless at worst.
Who would have guessed, after all the media hype about Cornell representing what is right about college athletics, that they would have displayed so much disrespect for Kentucky prior to and after the game?
Don't always fall for the narrative the media constructs.