Kentucky Defence Too Much For Wittman And Company

Mike HendersonCorrespondent IIMarch 26, 2010

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 25:  Ryan Wittman #20 of the Cornell Big Red drives against Darius Miller #1 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the east regional semifinal of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Carrier Dome on March 25, 2010 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Last night's latest David versus Goliath match-up proved to be too much for the Cornell Big Red.

Kentucky used a 30-6 run to close the first half and give them a lead that they would not relinquish as the Wildcats moved into the Elite Eight with a 62-45 win at Syracuse.

Cornell's wins in the first two rounds of the tourney were no fluke. They handled two good defensive teams (Temple and Wisconsin) with relative ease. The difference last night was that they were facing an exceptional defensive team.

Giving up 62 points in a game will most often give you a chance to win it. And even after limiting the Wildcats to eight points in the first 13 minutes of the second half, the closest Cornell could come would be six.

We have heard about Kentucky's firepower but their defence, especially against Ryan Wittman, was unrelenting. Wittman scored early and was then shut down, mostly by Darius Miller, who never seemed more than three to six inches away from him. By the end of the game, Wittman, and all of the Big Red starters for that matter, were exhausted.

Cornell is not an easy team to guard. Their sets and motion offense make a defence work. But the Wildcats constantly disrupted the screens and the cuts and when there were opportunities at the basket for Jeff Foote and company, had weak-side shot blockers there in support.

It is easy enough to encourage skilled players to try and score twenty points but it was evident last night that John Calipari's message was "Don't let them score." He used Miller, Deandre Liggins and John Wall on the perimeter, along with Eric Bledsoe, causing match-up difficulties that Cornell just couldn't overcome. 

Admittedly, I was with the majority of fans who were rallying with Cornell. The sea of red in Syracuse was something to behold, and, with the university only an hour away, it should have been. The noise level when the score reached 10-2 for Red was literally through the roof. But this Kentucky team seemed to "flip the switch" and it was game over. 

That being said, the Wildcats still have not faced a team that was seeded higher than ninth in the tourney, though this is through no fault of their own. Saturday's game against West Virginia will be by far its toughest test.