After dropping a pair on the road last weekend, the women’s basketball team will try to bounce back as it hosts Brown tonight in Newman Arena before taking on Yale tomorrow.
For the 2005-06 Red (6-13, 3-3 Ivy), staying near or above the .500 mark in Ivy League play is quite a turnaround from last year’s dismal 1-13 Ivy record and a leap forward for the program as a whole.
“We want to do the opposite of last year,” said freshman Jeomi Maduka. “Our goal is always to be Ivy League champions.”
In its history, Cornell has only notched two winning Ivy League seasons since play began in 1982-83 – the last one being in 2001-02. Furthermore, the Red has not earned more than four Ivy League victories in its three previous seasons.
Cornell should have the perfect opportunity to match or surpass that mark this weekend against the Bears (11-8, 5-1) and the Bulldogs (2-17, 1-5). With the inside and outside scoring threats of Maduka and junior Claire Perry, the Red should be able to spread out opponents’ defenses.
Perry has looked more and more impressive with each game as of late. After a career-best 23 points and 17 rebounds against Columbia two weeks ago to earn Ivy League Player of the Week honors, the junior continued her hot streak with 26 points on last week’s road trip.
Meanwhile, Maduka, a freshman, has consistently been the Red’s best scorer and rebounder. Currently averaging 13.9 points and 8.1 boards per game, she came up just short of her eighth career double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds in her last performance, a 80-71 loss at Harvard.
Cornell’s defense should also prove to be one of its keys in staying at or moving above the .500 mark this weekend. In Jekyll and Hyde-like fashion, the Red has allowed 55.3 points per game in its Ivy wins, but 89.0 points when it is on the losing side of those contests.
“We’ve been working on defense all week,” Maduka said. “It shouldn’t be an issue this weekend. Our defense has been poor, but we should play much better.”
Slowing the Brown offense should not be too tough for the Red this weekend. Relying mainly on stars Sarah Hayes (14.8 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game) and Colleen Kelly (13.2 ppg, 2.4 apg), the Bears have only managed 62.2 points per game this season.
However, Brown has used a stifling defense – it has held Ivy opponents to less than 55 points per game on average – to shut down opponents.
“They’re in second in the league right now, so we’re expecting some pretty tough competition,” Maduka said.
Avoiding turnovers against the aggressive Brown defenders should prove to be one of the keys for Cornell. The Red has committed on average over 20 turnovers per game, while the Bears have averaged close to 12 steals per contests on the season.
Meanwhile, Yale comes to Newman Arena on Saturday fresh off its first victory in its last eight games – a 53-52 victory over Penn.
Like the Bears, the Bulldogs have struggled on offense, but make up for it with tough play at the other end of the court.
Averaging just 50.2 points per game, Yale is led by junior Chinenye Okafor who has posted 8.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Center Sara McCollum – 8.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game – is another of the Eli’s top performers.
Defensively, the Eli’s have steadily improved throughout the season and have done a stellar job at slowing down league foes over the past few weeks. Ivy opponents are averaging just 59.2 points per game against Yale.