Home-court advantage and a rowdy crowd on hand to celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day gave the women’s basketball team the perfect conditions in which to play its most exciting basketball of the season thus far. The Red responded in just that way, playing games that were decided in the final minute against both Princeton and Penn this weekend.
On Friday night, the Red made repeated comebacks before the Tigers were able to pull out a 78-74 win. The teams went into the intermission with an even score of 33-33 having played through 10 ties in the first half.
After fighting back from as many as six points down in the first half, the Red came out flat in the second, allowing Princeton to score 15 of the first 17 points in the second stanza.
However, the Red refused to go quietly, and, when freshman Lindsey Krasna sunk both free throws with 58 seconds left in the game, the team had pulled within six points. The teams were back and forth in the remaining time.
Tigers’ freshman Ariel Rodgers sunk a free throw that Red sophomore Claire Perry answered with a three-pointer to make the score 75-71 with 38 seconds to play. Sophomore Elyse Umeda then sunk both of her free throws to give the Tigers some breathing room, but Cornell junior Hilary Seidel drained a three-pointer to keep the game close. Cornell was forced to foul once more, and Princeton sophomore Casey Lockwood made her first free throw before the Tigers grabbed the offensive rebound off her missed second shot to escape with the victory.
“We cleaned a lot of things up,” head coach Dayna Smith said of the weekend. “We took more shots and took care of the ball. Our offense was more aggressive and confident.”
Both teams were on fire, with four players on each team producing double-digit performances. Krasna and sophomore Amy Lyon led the Red with 17 points each, and Krasna added a team-high six assists. Perry added 14, and sophomore point guard Katherine Stritzl tossed in 10.
The Red shot 41% in the first half, a drastic improvement over recent outings, and forced Princeton into 23 turnovers. However, the Red could only manage a 28% shooting percentage in the second half, and made 20 turnovers of its own.
The Tigers were led by junior Becky Brown’s 20 points and 14 rebounds. Sophomore Casey Lockwood added 12 points and six rebounds of her own, while junior Lauren Nestor and sophomore Elyse Umeda both threw in 11 points each.
Saturday night proved to be just as exciting, as the Red fought to the last shot against defending Ivy League champions Penn before falling 51-50.
“We talked about [Friday night], and trying to feed off that,” Smith said. “When we play hard, with passion, we can play with any team in the league. I hope it gets us on a roll.”
The first half of the contest was a battle of the boards, with Penn out-rebounding the Red by a 32-16 margin. Quakers junior Jennifer Fleischer dominated in the paint, putting up 11 points and 15 rebounds in the first half. But the Red kept it close, with Lyon hitting the last shot of the half to send the teams into the break with the score standing at 28-22.
Throughout the season, including the previous night against the Tigers, the Red has struggled to maintain intensity and focus in the second half. On Saturday night, the team was able to break out of this pattern.
“The second half has been a problem, so we really focused on that,” Smith said. “We were really scrappy, and the defense was turned up a notch. We didn’t give up.”
The Red out-scored the Quakers in the second half, despite coming up just short at the end. The strong play was keyed by a career performance from Stritzl, who scored 10 of her team-high 15 points in the second half.
“When Katherine is playing with confidence, the whole team plays well,” Smith said. “She gives us composure.”
Turnovers and team defense were also areas of vast improvement for the Red, which only gave the ball up 10 times over the course of the game. The Red also used a full-court press to fluster the Quakers in the second half.
“We’re playing smarter,” Smith said. “They’re aggressive, but we’re prepared for that. We turned it over a lot against Princeton, so we focused on that. When we can press, it’s our best asset. We feed off of that — when we put in energy it gets the adrenaline going.”
The Red’s defense also shut down Fleischer, who was held to six rebounds and two points in the second half. Freshman Morgan Dickens, who guarded Fleischer, was the key in the defensive effort.
“We played defense trying to help off their point guard and help down on [Fleischer],” Smith said. “Offensive rebounds — they had 21. That was their main offense in the first half. In the second half they had 16 — that was the key.”
For the second night in a row, the game was decided in the final minute of play. Stritzl pulled the Red within one with two free throws and 53 seconds remaining. Fleischer had her only basket of the second half, a put-back with 12.2 seconds remaining, to put the Quakers up, 51-48. After a quick time-out, Krasna scored the final Red basket of the game off an inbounds play under the hoop. Krasna grabbed the rebound off the last Quaker attempt to set up the final possession of the game. With 2.4 seconds left on the clock, the Red was able to run a play that found Dickens with an open shot just off the right elbow. The final jumper fell just short as time expired, giving Penn the narrow victory.
Krasna finished with 13 points, six rebounds, and five assists for the Red. Lyon added 12 points, and she and Dickens had seven rebounds each.
Penn was led by the 13 points and game-high 21 rebounds from Fleischer. Senior Karen Habrukowich added another 13 points, while sophomore Monica Naltner notched a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Red falls to 2-19, 0-6 Ivy, with the two narrow losses. “It’s nice being home,” Smith said. “It would have been nice to come out with two wins, but we made huge improvements.”
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Staff Writer