It took two overtimes but the Cornell women’s basketball team defeated Columbia, 71-64, Saturday to complete the sweep of the Lions and give the Red the best record in the Ivy League.
The Red (10-6, 2-0 Ivy) began the game hot, leading by as many as 13 points and ending the half with a ten-point advantage over the Lions (2-14, 0-2 Ivy).
“We had a very good half,” head coach Dayna Smith said. “[We played] terrific defense.”
The Lions picked it up in the second half and the Red saw its ten-point lead vanish into a four-point deficit with just over three minutes left in the game.
According to Smith, Columbia was able to get back in the game because Cornell got lazy on defense, giving up easy penetration and post-ups on the block.
“We allowed them to get offensive opportunities from six and eight feet out,” she explained.
After the Red and the Lions traded buckets, junior guard Allyson Dimango made a layup to bring Cornell within two points of the Lions. Dimango scored 13 points and had 22 rebounds on the night.
With just 1:26 left in the game, junior guard Shelby Lyman stole the ball from the Lions and then senior guard Spencer Lane made a layup in the paint 20 seconds later to tie the game.
In the final minute of the period, the Red locked up on defense and the game went to overtime.
“We had a couple nice defensive stops [at the end of regulation],” Smith said.
Columbia took control in the first overtime jumping out to another four-point lead with just under three minutes remaining in the period. The Red fought back methodically scoring the next two points of the game on two separate trips to the free throw line.
With nine seconds remaining in the game, senior forward Clare Fitzpatrick drew another foul and then headed to the charity stripe with a chance to force a second overtime.
Fitzpatrick sunk both shots.
“Clare had been making her free throw. [It was] just a very good game for her. [She was zoned in both offensively and defensively,” Smith said.
Before the second overtime began, Smith reminded her team that the extra period was a gift.
“[I told them], ‘We’ve been given a second chance here. Let’s not waste it,” she said.
The Red used Smith’s words as a rallying point, taking control of the second overtime to shoot 60 percent from the field and sink five of seven free throws. The team played with better composure on offense and communicated better on the defensive end.
The game was Cornell’s third double overtime game all-time and the first that resulted in a win. Five players reached double-digits in scoring and the team broke 70 points for the sixth time this season.
The Red’s sweep of Columbia marks its second Ivy season in a row that began with two wins. In the 2011-2012 campaign, Cornell finished 6-8 in the conference and tied for fifth in the Ivy League.
Although the team began the season well, Smith said she believes it must improve its defensive consistency in such a competitive league.
“You can’t take any defensive possessions off against any one in the league, and we took too many off,” she said.
Nevertheless, the Red will go into next weekend with sole possession of first place in the league after the Harvard Crimson (10-6, 1-1 Ivy) lost at Dartmouth (3-13, 1-1 Ivy) and the Princeton Tigers (10-5, 1-0 Ivy) did not play.
The Crimson’s loss exemplifies the competitiveness of a league in which a team with ten wins can beat a team with two.
“I think that it shows that in this league, on any given night, anyone can beat anyone. It’s a cliché, but it’s so true,” Smith said. “[They are] intense back-to-back [weekends].”