Cornell all-time moment No. 9: Cornell defeats Bill Bradley – The Blaine Aston shot

Cornell Box Score

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.

5 thoughts on “Cornell all-time moment No. 9: Cornell defeats Bill Bradley – The Blaine Aston shot”

  1. With all due respect, and though not yet seeing any of the top 5 moments, I still think this 1965 victory over Princeton should rank higher on your list. I was present at that game,and until the NCAA victories of 2010, that game ranked as probably the most dramatic Cornell game I ever witnessed, indeed possibly my greatest athletic thrill ever. It is hard to describe the electricity of that overflow crowd on that cold January night. Bill Bradley was the greatest college player I ever saw in person (except maybe for Pete Maravich), he lit up the scoreboard that night after an uncommonly poor start, and that victory was big!

    Don’t know if you will include it in your top 5, but another favorite Cornell basketball moment was the victory over #19th ranked California, 74-54, in the 1992-1993 season, at the Meadowlands holiday tourney. Jason Kidd did not play that night, but California was still a great team and Cornell, led by sharpshooter Jeff Gaca and forward Zeke Marshall, just demolished the Golden Bears.

    • Still around?
      I just came upon this site on an unexpected trip thru Google. I too was at the game, a student at Ithaca High School and avid Cornell fan. Main clearly visible in the photo the Journal ran of fans storming the court.
      I was also a major Bill Bradley fan and still am. Being familiar with Barton Hall, I knew a place I could hide out where the Princeton team would pass to leaving their locker room. I waited and when the team came out I approached a clearly dejected Bill Bradley, game program and pen in hand, and said something like “Tough loss Bill. Would you sign this?” He stopped, took the pen , paused, and handed it back to me. He said “Sorry” and moved on.
      20 years later I told this story to the man I worked for, knowing he had become a professional friend of them Senator Bradley. He told me if I still had the program to bring it to the office. I did so. A few weeks later it showed up in the mail from the Senator’s office. He had signed the cover with a note about how patience and perseverance can pay off.
      I treasure it to this day!

      • I had planned on going to the game with some of my friends! I graduated with a masters from Cornell in 1959. WE were not able to go to game since it was sold out when we got there at Barton Hall.
        Stanley Comstock

  2. I was there and remember this game – and Blaine’s shot – vividly. This game was the most exciting athletic event I’d ever seen and still ranks #2 on my all time list, #1 being the 1995 Mariners-Yankees playoff game where Edgar Martinez doubled down the left field line and Griffey scored from first base in the 12th inning. #3 is watching Oscar Robertson score 56 for the Cincinnati Bearcats against NYU at Madison Square Garden in the1960 ECAC tournament.


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