We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Cornell is next because once upon a time, Barton Hall was a buzzer-beater biosphere.
Cornell has a few impressive wins in its history. Defeating defending national runner-up Ohio State in 1940, taking down Kentucky 92-77 in 1966 and beating a Cal team featuring two future NBA players, Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray, in 1992. (Spoiler alert: Some big wins have intentionally been left out. They will be covered later in Cornell’s top 10 all-time moments.)
Arguably, the most impressive of them all is what occurred on Jan. 16, 1965.
There’s plenty of healthy debate over who is the best team in Ivy League history. The 1979 Penn team? One of Jim McMillian’s Columbia teams? The 1998 Princeton team? 2010 Cornell?
Sam MacNeil’s 1965 Cornell team did finish 19-5, but will never be in this conversation. On the other hand, the ‘65 Princeton team, led by future Hall of Famer Bill Bradley might start and end the debate.
The 1965 Princeton team, led by Bill Bradley’s 28.8 points per game, cruised to a 23-6 record, 13-1 in conference, and a Final Four appearance. I would love to spend more time on this team, but this post really isn’t about the 1965 Princeton squad, it’s about the No. 9 moment in Cornell basketball history: taking that team down.
A record-setting 9,000 fans packed Barton Hall to witness All-American and Olympian, Bill Bradley in person. It was early on in the Ivy slate, but Princeton was a heavy favorite to win the contest and the league. The Red started hot and ended the first half up 10. Things didn’t change much in the second half. With 13:43 to go in the contest, Cornell could smell the upset, leading, 50-33. However, it wouldn’t come easy with Bill Bradley on the court. Bradley had a game-high 40 points and his basket with a little more than two minutes left put Princeton up one.
For the rest of the game recap, we will quote directly from a Jan. 18, 1965 article in the Cornell Daily Sun written by Ronald Harris.
“Under orders from their coach Bill van Breda Kolff, the Tigers began to freeze the ball. With just 42 seconds left in the game, Bliss fouled Chris Chimera. Chimera missed a one-and-one which could have iced it for Princeton if he sank both. Chimera and (Stephen) Cram and Tiger center Rob Brown tied up the ball.
Cornell had to control the tap if it were to have any chance to win. And that is just what it did as Bliss picked up the ball with 33 seconds remaining.
Cornell, under MacNeil’s orders, then began to work the ball for the last shot, trying to keep the ball away from Bradley as long as possible. Back and forth the ball moved between (Dave) Bliss, (Blaine) Aston, and (Bob) Berube. Then with 10 seconds left, coach MacNeil called a time out to set up the last shot. The Red tried to get the ball into Cram but was unable to. So Aston, all alone on the left side, let go a one-handed jumper. The crowd went wild as it swished through the basket and Cornell led 70-69, with three seconds left.
Princeton quickly called a time out to try to plan a play in the final two seconds. The Tigers’ pass went to Bob Haarlow, who took a 12-foot jump shot at the buzzer. As the shot went off to the left, the large crowd surged on to the court and bedlam broke loose. Cornell had won, 70-69.”
If you can’t figure out why this one-point win is such a big deal, give Toothless Tiger’s No. 2 moment in Princeton history a read. Cornell beat that team … on a buzzer-beater.