Most Cornellians’ idea of a double-header over the Thanksgiving break was following up the turkey with pumpkin pie — there may never be a greater one-two punch in the realm of holiday feasting.
But for the women’s basketball team, it was two full servings of hard-nosed basketball as the Red took on Central Connecticut State and Bryant at the Rhody Classic. Cornell dropped its first contest before beating Bryant on Saturday.[img_assist|nid=33913|title=One-woman wrecking machine|desc=Junior guard Virginia McMunigal (4) outscored Central Connecticut State in the opening minutes of Friday’s matchup, 13-5, but the early lead disappeared.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
After the team shared Thanksgiving together at its hotel on Thursday, the Red (3-3) faced off with Central Connecticut (3-3) in Friday’s opening round of the Rhody Classic, hosted by the University of Rhode Island. Despite jumping out to an early lead and holding a 41-30 lead at the half, the Red could not hold off the Blue Devils and eventually lost, 74-66.
In the opening minutes, junior Virginia McMunigal outscored Central Connecticut 13-5 by herself, starting the game by connecting on her first five shot attempts. The Red fed off of the momentum, building a 19-point lead, 36-17, with six and a half minutes left in the first. But that’s when the tides turned — Connecticut used a 13-5 run to pull within 11 points to close the half.
Connecticut took control in the second, holding the Red to 32.1 percent shooting and 16.7 percent behind the arc after the Red shot a ridiculous 57.7 percent in the first, including a 77.8 percent clip from 3-point range.
“I think we lost our momentum offensively,” McMunigal said. “It was kind of a tale of two halves. We probably had our best offensive performance in the first half against Connecticut, and then in the second half we only had 25 points after 41 in the first.”
The defense also suffered, allowing 44 points on 35 shot attempts — seven more than the Red got off. After holding off the Blue Devils for most of the game, the Red eventually fell behind for the first time with 8:42 left to play. After that, Cornell never regained the lead.
“Defensively, we didn’t do a good job with our penetration defense,” McMunigal said. “We let some of their guards score more than they should have.”
Included among Connecticut’s guards was tournament Most Outstanding Player Shontice Simmons, who scored 21 of her 23 points in the second half against the Red. She would score 15 more against Rhode Island, getting the first start of her career while helping Connecticut win the Rhody Classic.
For Cornell, 66 points wasn’t good enough to beat Connecticut, but it was more than enough to take down Bryant (2-4). After losing 74-66 on Friday, the Red evened its record at 3-3 by beating Bryant 66-55. Out of the tournament’s four games, three saw a team score 66 points in the contest.
While Cornell got an early lead against Connecticut before losing pace, it was a different story in Saturday’s game. The Red fell behind 6-0 and eventually trailed 21-17 with around eight minutes left to play. Then a 3-pointer from senior captain Lacey Workman ignited the Red, starting a 12-2 run to close the half with a 29-23 lead.
The Red worked the lead up to double digits less than five minutes into the second half. Cornell maintained its lead until seven unanswered points from Bryant brought the score to 55-51 with three minutes left to play.
Cornell resettled, getting a 3-pointer from junior Allie Fedorowicz to push the lead back up to seven points. Junior guard Lauren Benson finished the game going 6-of-6 from the charity strip to secure the Red’s 66-55 victory.
“I think against Bryant we showed a lot of heart as a team,” McMunigal said. “We had a lead at halftime against Bryant and we were able to maintain that. We kept our pace from the first half up in the second and we never let the game slip away.”
Benson led the Red with 19 points and four assists against Bryant en route to being named to the All-Tournament team. Sophomore Susie Doyle had a breakout performance, pulling down a game-high 12 boards. Fedorowicz added 17 points, while senior captain Shannon Scarselletta scored 15 from the paint.
“I think it’s good that we’ve had people having break out games, and I think that will be important,” McMunigal said. “But it will be important to have balance inside-out, and I think that was partly what was missing against Central Connecticut. Our guards didn’t get the ball inside enough to establish our post presence. Suzie and Shannon did a great job against Bryant of doing that and being very strong post players.”
Against Central Connecticut, Cornell’s starting forwards — Doyle and Scarselletta — were outscored 21-12 and out-rebounded 20-11. Against Bryant, the duo scored a combined 19 points while holding Bryant’s starting frontcourt to 11 points. The Red combo also grabbed 20 boards compared to the Bryant pair’s 15.