After two consecutive road losses to Harvard and Dartmouth, the women’s basketball team needed at least one win this weekend against Brown or Yale to stay in the hunt for a spot in the Ivy League Tournament.
“This week we worked in practice on a lot of the stuff that we got beat on last weekend at Harvard and Dartmouth, so I think that we were all just hungry for a win,” said senior guard Megan Leduc. “We knew that we needed to get at least one win this weekend in order to keep our hopes alive for a bid at the postseason tournament.”
On Friday night, in a back-and-forth affair, the Red (12-7, Ivy 3-3) relied heavily on senior forward Nia Marshall, who led the team with 22 points and played 38 minutes. However, her effort was not enough.
Brown got 27 points from freshman forward Justine Gaziano to propel the Bears to a 72-67 victory.
“We had plenty of opportunities to win that game,” said head coach Dayna Smith. “We missed a ton of open shots that we had been making all season long, so it was just a very uncharacteristic game for some of our players at least in terms of shooting percentage.”
Hoping not to lose both games of the back-to-back, the Red would need to defeat Yale in New Haven, a feat that Cornell has not accomplished since 2008.
“Coming into the game, we knew that our postseason Ivy League berth was on the line, so we had to give our full effort in order to secure the win against Yale,” said senior forward Nicholle Aston.
With a chip on its shoulder, the Red came out with vengeance. The squad led the Bulldogs from start to finish, never letting Yale feel that it even had a chance to win the game.
Cornell, who defeated Yale, 76-63, had four seniors score in double digits. Yet again Marshall led the Red with 18 points, Leduc finished with 17 points, Aston ended with 14 points and guard Kerri Moran chipped in 11 points.
“I loved our resolve against Yale,” Smith said. “I thought we had great leadership, but ultimately it is a tough turnaround coming back just 24 hours after a disappointing loss against Brown.”
With the weekend split, Cornell has kept itself firmly in contention for one of the final top four spots, and currently sits in fifth place — half a game behind fourth-place Princeton. The Red is only one game out of a tie for second place in the league.
“Getting rid of the taste of losing is always a positive,” Aston said. “Every game matters, and we need to keep things going in the right direction if we want to make it to the postseason.”
The Red will now have four consecutive Ivy League home games, and six of its final eight league games of the season will be played in Newman Arena.
“There is something to be said for being at home,” Smith said. “It doesn’t guarantee a win, but it definitely helps. We are excited to have the opportunity to play here in front of our friends and family as well.”
This weekend, Cornell will begin its four-game home stand when it hosts first place Princeton and Penn over the weekend.
“This stretch is huge for us,” Leduc said. “It is nice to not have to travel, and we always shoot better at home and play more confidently, so we are hoping to get four straight wins when we play here.”
The Red takes on the Quakers at 6 p.m. Friday and then the Tigers at 5 p.m. the following evening, both at Newman Arena.