Less than a year ago, the women’s basketball team stood at 10-13 (6-4 Ivy) before welcoming Brown and Yale to Newman Arena on consecutive days, knowing that there was no chance of catching Harvard in pursuit of the Ivy League title. This season is different, as the Red (9-6, 1-1) has only played two of its Ivy games and are still keeping pace with the Crimson (8-8, 1-1).
Cornell opened Ivy play with two games against Columbia, easily winning the first at home but dropping the second in New York City.
“It was a tough loss, beating them by 16 at home and then going to their place and losing,” said senior co-captain guard Gretchen Gregg. “But we just refocused and watched the film. We have to take the good and the bad from every win and loss.”[img_assist|nid=27173|title=Two hands|desc=Junior forward Jeomi Maduka (45) goes for the ball in the Red’s 73-57 win over Columbia Jan. 19.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“We were a little sour after the Columbia game,” said head coach Dayna Smith. “We didn’t shoot well, we came out flat. We’re really looking to fine tune things on the offensive end, and hopefully we’ll be able to do some good things against both teams.
Cornell will match up with Brown first, playing them tonight in the first of a two-game swing against the Bears and traveling partner Yale. The last time Cornell faced off against Brown, the Red came away with a 41-36 win late last season.
This year, the Bears will limp into Newman Arena with a 1-15 (0-2 Ivy) record after dropping two consecutive games to Yale. Still, the Red knows it cannot overlook any opponent in the unpredictable Ivy League.
“Obviously it’s harder because you play both teams back-to-back,” said senior co-captain forward Moina Snyder. “You have to prepare for both games at the same time. You can’t overlook one or the other. Every game counts.”
Brown’s leading scorer this season is Annesley O’Neal, who averages 7.4 points a game for the Bears. The Red has four players who average at least that much — Snyder, Gregg and juniors Jeomi Maduka, a forward, and Kayleen Fitzsimmons, a guard.
Cornell expects Brown to primarily play a zone defense, opening up opportunities for the Red to move the ball around the perimeter or go inside, as both the frontcourt and backcourt have been productive throughout the season.
“Brown likes to play the zone, they’ll throw in some man-to-man, but their primary defense is the zone,” said Smith. “We’re just trying to focus on us and play our game.”
The Red will return to its stomping grounds Saturday night to face the Bulldogs, who have opened conference play undefeated with two victories over the aforementioned struggling Bears.
Cornell and Yale split last season’s series, Cornell winning the game held at Newman by a score of 59-55. The Red has not forgotten that after facing Brown, Yale will be waiting in the wings.
“It’s tough because you have to prepare for two teams in one week, back-to-back, said Gregg. “We’ve been looking at each team a little bit each day and breaking down what they like to do and what we’re going to do against them.”
Unlike Brown, which averages only 44.7 points per game compared to Cornell’s 64.9 and Yale’s 62.7, Yale (4-11, 2-0) is getting double-digit scoring production from two players. The Bulldogs will depend on Melissa Colborne (15.3 ppg) and Jamie Van Horne (10.6 ppg) to combat the Red’s offensive production. With so many options on the court, however, the Red is confident heading into the remainder of Ivy League play.
“It can’t get better than this,” Snyder said. “This is the Ivy League. We’ve been working six months for this, so we’re ready. In the beginning, against the first team you get so excited, but in our league, every game counts. Anyone can win, so you have to approach every game like it was a championship game.”