After completing a sweep of Columbia on Saturday, women’s basketball (10-6, 2-0 Ivy) is set to square off against the Princeton Tigers (10-5, 1-0) and the Pennsylvania Quakers (7-8, 0-1) in Newman Arena this weekend.
The Red, which hopes to keep its perfect Ivy season alive, needs to have a strong defensive game to lock up the Tigers and last year’s Ivy League Player of the Year, Princeton’s talented senior guard Niveen Rasheed.
Since her freshmen year, when she won Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Rasheed has dominated the conference. This season she has scored 15 points or more in 11 of the team’s 15 games and has averaged 16.4 points per game. She has also grabbed an average 8.9 rebounds a contest.
“Rasheed has been the best player in our league for the last few years,” head coach Dayna Smith said.
In order to beat Princeton, Smith believes the Red will have to play carefully on its offensive and defensive ends.
“[We have to] rebound [and] play team defense,” Smith said. “[We] have to take care of the basketball.”
Nevertheless, she remains realistic about Princeton and the formidable Rasheed.
“I don’t think you can shut her down, but I think you can limit the damage that she does,” Smith said.
In addition to Rasheed, the Tigers have a solid supporting cast of guards and forwards, including junior forward Kristen Helmstetter and sophomore guard Blake Dietrick.
The Tigers lead the all-time series against the Red by a margin of 44-20 and 15-7 during Smith’s tenure. In the last match up between the two teams, the Tigers dominated the Red 75-39 on the road.
After battling with the Tigers at 7 p.m. on Friday, the Red will take on the Quakers at the same time Sunday.
While Penn has lost three games in a row, it played well against the Big East’s Villanova Wildcats on Jan. 16 in a 48-44 loss.
The Quakers have a similar team structure as the Tigers, centering around one key athlete, junior guard Alyssa Baron.
“She’s another player that’s very capable of scoring twenty person a game,” Smith said.
While Baron’s 15.1 points per game make her Penn’s only player averaging over 10 points a contest, sophomore forward Kara Bonenberger and freshmen guard Keiera Ray each have nearly nine points a game. Ray earned her second Ivy League Rookie of the Week award on Monday.
The Quakers have the all-time lead over the Red, 48-19, but Cornell has won 10 of the last 14 games against Penn, including both games last season.
Smith stresses the importance of limiting her opponent’s best players in each of the weekend’s matchups.
“[We can’t] allow both team’s stars to take over,” she said.
Ultimately, the Red has been preparing for its physically exhausting double-header this weekend with a challenging goal: to remain perfect in the Ivy League.