After beginning the season with three consecutive victories for the first time since 1993, Cornell was looking to extend that streak to four when the squad traveled to Towson on Saturday.
Despite playing a closely contested game, Towson guard Raven Bankston’s 30-point performance was simply too much for the Red to overcome, and ultimately the Tigers were able to outlast Cornell, 68-63, handing the Red its first loss of the year.
“This game showed us that we have to be able to push through adversity during tough games, and to focus on the things we can control,” said senior forward Nicholle Aston. “If we aren’t hitting shots, we can make sure that the other team doesn’t get easy baskets on the other end.”
Although Cornell took a small lead at the beginning of the first quarter, Towson kept the advantage for the whole second quarter and went into halftime with a 36-32 lead.
“We need to improve on finding our offensive pace early in the game,” said freshman forward Maddy Reed. “We came out slow offensively, but I believe that as we become more seasoned, we will get better in that sense.”
In the second half, with every possession crucial, the Tigers kept their lead for nearly the entire final two periods. In the third quarter, Towson relinquished its edge momentarily, but quickly regained it and never looked back.
With 3:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, Towson ballooned the margin to 10, but Cornell, led by its five starting seniors, was not finished fighting. Back-to-back 3-pointers by senior guards Megan LeDuc and Kerri Moran helped cut the Towson lead to one with under two minutes to play.
But Bankston caught fire and scored the Tigers’ final six points of the game, propelling Towson to its third straight victory to begin its season.
“We shouldn’t have been in the position where we were trailing late,” said head coach Dayna Smith. “We missed a lot of open shots when we cut their lead to one; we had five straight opportunities to score during that stretch, but we either weren’t ready to shoot or we just missed some good, open looks.”
Aston pointed to the slow first half as the reason the team was not able to find its rhythm early on.
“It wasn’t a matter of focusing on the last two minutes,” Aston said. “We came out flat in the first quarter, and we weren’t able to get into an offensive flow that we are accustomed to. We picked it up in the second half, but by then it was a little too late.”
LeDuc led the Red in scoring with 15 points, and she was aided by Aston and senior guard Taylor DePalma, who scored 13 apiece.
For Towson, Bankston led the way, with her twin sister, Raine Bankston chipping in with 10 points of her own. Both twins started the game and played 39 minutes.
“We had some defensive lapses,” Smith said. “When you play against a talented team like Towson, it will definitely come back to hurt you. It was a good lesson for our team to learn that every possession is extremely important, and that all five players have to be on the same page for us to win.”
The loss has increased the team’s focus on improving its defense in practice, according to Reed.
“I think that this game taught us that we have to be more defensively minded,” Reed said. “It was a tough game, and it was a good wake up call in terms of what we need to do on defense.”
The Red will look to get back in the win column when the team hosts Howard on Tuesday. Last season, the Bison defeated Cornell, 76-74.
“We did some good things offensively in this last game, so we are looking to build off of that,” DePalma said. “We made some mistakes against Towson, that we are looking to remedy when we take on Howard. Honestly, we are just excited about the fact that we are able to have an opportunity to win right after this loss.”