By JOSHUA BEHLER
The 2013-14 season started the right way for the Red as it jumped out to a 2-0 start, beating Colgate and Buffalo by 14 and seven points respectively. Within that time frame, the Red averaged just shy of 78 points per game and played stifling defense, allowing the squad to effectively run the fast break, as well as settle comfortably into half court sets.
“I think our first two games we did a really good job of setting the tone,” head coach Dayna Smith said. “Our first game against Colgate, we did a great job of coming out and staying aggressive the whole time, especially on defense. … We were able to do that well against Buffalo in the second half as well.”
Defense was the name of the game for Cornell in its first two victories, as the Red was able to shut down its opponents on the fast break and made life difficult for them in the half court. The squad’s pressing style of man-to-man generally forced its opponents to take tough and contested shots.
“I think in the first two games we were really able to communicate well on defense and that makes everything a lot easier,” senior forward and captain Allyson DiMagno said. “When you’re able to get stops, it really opens up the game on a lot of different levels, and I think we’re at our best when we let our defense set the tone and then just take what the game gives us after that.”
However, after beginning the season 2-0, the Red struggled in its next two games, as tough outings against Syracuse and Bucknell dropped the Red to a 2-2 record on the season, sending the squad back to the drawing board.
“I think whenever you play a team like Syracuse it’s always really tough,” Smith said. “They’re a great program and you know they’re going to be extremely quick and athletic so I think we knew it’d be a tough one going in.”
Nevertheless, Smith maintained that there were important takeaways from the matchup.
“Still, I think we can learn a lot from that game,” she said. “We were certainly a little careless in the first half with the ball, but their defense was great and that’s something we want to learn from and replicate going forward, that high level of defensive intensity.”
Despite strong defensive showings earlier in the season, the Red is still searching for more consistency on that end of the floor after giving up 72 and 89 points to Bucknell and Syracuse, respectively. Defense has been a top priority for the Red since training camp and it will continue to be a point of emphasis in the upcoming practices. Ball handling will also be important, as the Red gave up an uncharacteristically high 29 turnovers to the Orange.
“I think their defense was great,” DiMagno said. “Still though, 29 turnovers is too many and we definitely will need to address that going forward.”
Flying high | Senior guard Stephanie Long is averaging 6 points per game so far this season, including a game-high 13 points in the loss to Bucknell.