For women’s basketball head coach Dayna Smith, this weekend’s matchup against Penn (10-8, 3-2 Ivy) will feature some familiar faces on the opposing bench. Smith, a former Quakers assistant, left Penn to assume the head job at Cornell, a position that she has occupied for the last three seasons — meaning Penn’s all-senior starting lineup was all coached by Smith in their rookie campaigns.
“Right now, [the five seniors] are the heart and soul of the team,” Smith said. “I am very familiar with their players from my time coaching there, and I know they are going to be tough to beat.”
Since she began directing the Red program, Smith has not fared well against her former employer, dropping all four of the contests, including two losses a year ago. In the second meeting at Newman Arena, the Quakers escaped with only a three-point win, however, that Cornell team is very different from the one that will take the floor tomorrow.
“We just need to find a consistent four or five players that can perform every night and right now we only have two,” Smith said.
In two road losses to Brown and Yale last weekend, the Red was unable to break the 50-point mark in either contest. In fact, in Cornell’s current seven-game losing streak, its high point total is only 57.
“We are going to take the positive from the Yale game,” Smith said. “In that game, we had 14 turnovers, which was the lowest we have had all season. We took 70 shots and we really haven’t been able to get that many shot attempts. We had open shots that we know our players can make and the players have the confidence to make. Now, we have to hit the shots.”
However, this task will be easier said than done. Penn, and tonight’s opponent, Princeton (9-9, 1-4 Ivy), are ranked first and third in the league, respectively in scoring defense — both allowing less than 60 points per game.
On the offensive side of the ball, both Red opponents have formidable one-two scoring punches. For the Quakers, senior guard Karen Habrukowich leads the way with just under 12 points per game, while her classmate Jennifer Fleischer is an impressive complement in the post. Fleischer is also first in the Ivy League in rebounding and is the only conference player averaging a double-double.
Despite having only a 1-4 league record, Princeton may have the best inside game in the conference with junior Becky Brown and freshman Megan Cowher. Both players are amongst the top six scorers in the league at over 13 points per game apiece.
“They have lost some close games in the league and their record does not indicate the kind of year they are having,” Smith said. “We are anticipating Princeton coming out with a lot of emotion. They have an inside presence as well as a couple of guards who can hit the three. They are very balanced and we are looking for a tough game.”
The Red will need to fine tune its play on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball in order to earn its first Ivy League win this weekend. The combination of time in the film room and a focus on scrimmaging rather than drills will hopefully change the Red’s fortune.
“I feel confident that against Penn and Princeton we can take care of the ball and take a lot of shots,” Smith said.
Archived article by Bryan Pepper
Sun Staff Writer