Stung by Defeat, Cornell Savors Its Season

David Duprey/Associated Press

Cornell’s Ryan Wittman, center, sat between Alex Tyler, left, and Jeff Foote toward the end of their loss against Kentucky.

Amid the discarded towels and empty pizza boxes, the Cornell players had red eyes and spoke in soft voices. They had a full sense of what they had accomplished, but regretted what could have been. After storming to an early lead and sending the partisan Carrier Dome crowd into a frenzy, the Big Red’s offense sputtered over the final 15 minutes of the first half, when Kentucky went on a 30-6 run.

Cornell fought back to make the game respectable, switching defenses and holding Kentucky to 6 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half. But Kentucky used its physical superiority to ward off Cornell’s run, going twice in the post to the 6-foot-11 freshman DeMarcus Cousins when the game grew tight.

“I can’t believe it’s over right now,” Jon Jaques, a senior, said. “We expected to win this game, to be honest. Shots didn’t fall like they normally do, and Kentucky played really well.”

Despite the bitter disappointment, Cornell players held perspective on what they accomplished.

“Obviously, it’s been the time of my life,” Ryan Wittman, a senior, said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more, this group of guys and this coaching staff. It’s been a ton of fun. I’ll have nothing but good memories.”

Tyler joked that he hoped his teammates would not get too competitive during intramural softball season now that there was no competitive basketball left to play. He said the hardest part of the loss was that it marked the end of such a great run.

“I don’t know if I’m going to find another group of friends, another group of guys that I’m going to be as close with just because of so much we went through together,” he said. “Four years doesn’t seem like a long time, but we went through so much. Hopefully, if I see everyone in 10 years, we won’t miss a step.”

At the end of his nearly 10-minute speech, Donahue told his team to relish the moment rather than dwell on the loss.

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