The women’s basketball team will look to push its record above .500 for the first time this season as it hosts the four-team Cornell Classic this weekend. The team has fared well at home so far this season, with a 2-0 record in Newman Arena. The Red (2-2) hopes that its home-court advantage will carry through this weekend.
“Our two wins have come at home and we’ve had pretty good support,” said sophomore Virginia McMunigal. “It’s always nice to host a tournament. I think it gets your home court really excited to have that opportunity.”
Head coach Dayna Smith agreed with the benefits of playing at home.
“We’re excited about the chance to have the tournament here and feel comfortable,” Smith said. “Obviously it’s nice to sleep in your own beds and not have to travel.”
The Red has an all-time 16-18 record in the Cornell Classic, a figure distorted by the ten straight losses they suffered in the first ten games ever played in the Classic. Cornell has won the Cornell Classic six times with its most recent title in the 2003-04 season. That tournament was also the squad’s most recent tournament title.
The Red kicks off the tournament against Gardner-Webb (2-5) of the Atlantic Sun Conference at 7 p.m. tonight. The Runnin’ Bulldogs, usually one of the better programs in the Atlantic Sun Conference, has a young team with only one senior. Despite their record, the Bulldogs have had some bright moments this season, including a 21-steal game (a school record) against Montreat on Nov. 10 and their first season-opening win since 2002.
Gardner-Webb is led by sophomore forward Margaret Roundtree and freshman guard Monique Hudson. Roundtree has started all seven games this season and leads the Bulldogs with 7.9 rebounds per game. Hudson is the Bulldogs’ leading scorer with 88 points (averaging 12.6 per game) and 18 steals, nine of which were recorded in the Nov. 10 game against Montreat.
“They’re pretty balanced,” Smith said of the Runnin’ Bulldogs. “They have some versatile forwards and some good penetrators in their guard corps. Their versatility with a couple players poses challenges for opponents. Our forwards are going to have to be able to play perimeter defense.”
One of those forwards, Jeomi Maduka, is coming off a game in which she notched three blocks and four steals against Bucknell while leading the Red with 24 points.
On Saturday the Red will either face Bowling Green (4-0) or Florida Gulf Coast (1-2). The Bowling Green Falcons, picked second in the Mid-American Conference Eastern Divison preseason poll, have a history of excelling at tournaments. When they have less than 24 hours to prepare for a new opponent the Falcons are 9-3. Their overall non-conference tournament record under current head coach Curt Miller is 14-10.
The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles are coming off a 74-56 loss to Eastern Kentucky in the championships of the FGCU Thanksgiving classic. Senior forward Delia De La Torre scored 19 points and sophomore forward Adrianne McNally chipped in 16 points. The Eagles lost to Southern Connecticut State in the finals of the Divison II national championships to finish with a record of 34-1. However, the Eagles lost their top-3 scorers from last year’s team.
This weekend Cornell will attempt to use its momentum gained from a gritty win against Bucknell.
“It was a great win, we really played well as a team together,” McMunigal said. “We put a lot of things together in that game and we’re hoping to carry that momentum into this weekend.”