In what appeared to be another disappointing weekend of basketball for the Red after falling to league leading Princeton, 96-59, on Friday night, Cornell trailed league bottom feeder Penn, 20-18, at halftime on Saturday.
“We went into intermission really disappointed in ourselves,” said coach Dayna Smith of her team’s season-low 18-point first half performance against the Quakers. “We were lazy and sloppy on the offensive end.”
All of that changed in the final twenty minutes of play, though, and the Red (7-18, 2-10 Ivy) stormed past the Quakers (1-24, 0-11 Ivy), 60-42, to earn its second Ivy League victory of the season and gain some momentum heading into next weekend’s finale against Brown and Yale.
According to Smith, it was a return to the basics that cued Cornell’s second-half outburst against Penn.
“I thought our execution on offense [in the first half] was just really bad to be quite honest,” Smith said. “We challenged them to clean up our offense and we focused on getting the ball inside and working it inside out. They listened and we executed and had a good second half.”
The result of Smith’s halftime adjustments was a much more efficient and balanced scoring attack by the Red in the second half, something that the team has lacked for much of the season.
“Balanced scoring has been something we have been talking about and focusing on the whole season so it was really nice to see us progress,” said senior captain Allie Fedorowicz. “Every weekend we have been improving little by little and things started to really fall into place … in the second half.”
Fedorowicz was one of five Cornell players to score in double-figures against the Quakers. The senior captain led the way with 13 points, while fellow captain Lauren Benson and sophomore forward Allie Munson added 12 points and 11 points, respectively. Two of the youngest members of the team, freshmen Clare Fitzpatrick and Taylor Flynn, nearly posted double-doubles for the Red, scoring 12 and 10 points respectively while each grabbing 8 rebounds.
The scoring came fast and often in the second half for Cornell, but it wasn’t until the team went on a 17-5 run with under 10 minutes to play that the lead became truly insurmountable. Jerin Smith and Brianna Bradford kept the Quakers in the game up until that point. Smith led Penn in scoring with 10 points and Bradford added nine points of her own. Jess Knapp led the Quakers in rebounding, grabbing 10 boards off the bench.
Despite Knapp’s best efforts, though, Cornell dominated the glass in the second half and finished the game with a 41-32 rebounding advantage over the Quakers.
“Rebounding has been a focus of ours for the past few weeks so it was important for us to take care of business on the boards in this game,” said Fedorowicz, who grabbed five boards of her own. “We didn't do so in the first half so making more of an effort I think really made a huge difference in the score in the second.”
In its first matchup of the weekend, the Red was handed a 37-point defeat by the Princeton Tigers (23-2, 11-0 Ivy). Undefeated in Ivy League play and well on its way to an NCAA Tournament birth, Princeton attacked Cornell from inside and out, scoring 50 points in the paint while adding seven field goals from behind the arc.
“Princeton is an excellent, skilled team,” Fedorowicz said. “Not only are they extremely talented individuals, but they also have the best team dynamic in the Ivy League.”
The Tigers superiority was on display in the game’s opening minutes, as Princeton won the opening tip and immediately hit a three-pointer en route to a blowout victory over Cornell.
“[Princeton] jumped on us early,” Smith said. “They got a big lead and they just sat on it.”
Freshman Niveen Rasheed led the way for the Tigers with 18 points and seven rebounds, followed by Devona Allgood and Lauren Edwards with 15 points and 14 points respectively.
Munson provided most of the production for the Red, recording a 12-point, 14-rebound double-double on the night. Sophomore Christine Vlasic added eight points off the bench for Cornell.
Although the Red did not play its best game against the Tigers, Smith tipped her cap to Princeton for being the better team in the game and throughout Ivy League play all year.
“I think [Princeton is] one of the best, if not the best Ivy League team, I have ever seen in my 11 years in the league,” Smith said. “I think they are the real deal. I hope they make a nice run [in the NCAA Tournament] for our conference’s sake.”