The women’s basketball team headed to West Point, N.Y., this weekend to face formidable opponents Loyola-Chicago and Army in the Army Tournament. The Red was set to compete in its first regular season games and tournament.
In the semi-final, Cornell battled Loyola-Chicago, a team that ended last season with a 3-12 mark and dropped its two earlier exhibition games.
With contributions from senior forward Jennifer Linker and freshman guard Karen Force, an 11-0 run to start the contest opened the Red’s season in fine fashion. Cornell dominated the first half and never let its opponents come closer than eight points. Junior guard Deborah Stevens stepped up in the final minute of the half to score the final six ticks, half coming on the Red’s first three-pointer of the season. Cornell headed to the locker room with a satisfying 36-25 lead.
Hitting 38.9% (14-36) from the field, Cornell was unrelenting. Its 7-for-9 (44.4 %) effort from the free-throw line contributed to the 11-point margin.
The second half saw Loyola-Chicago sink more baskets from the field. Going 13-36 (36.1%) from inside the arc was an improvement over the 7-28 (25%) mark posted in the opening half. However, the foe’s effort was short as Cornell handily took the game 76-60.
The game was highlighted by Force’s play. She had a team-high 13 points and eight assists in the win, and also lead the Red in minutes played. Force is proving a valuable talent as Stevens and backcourt mate Breean Walas nurse last year’s injuries.
Linker was a factor as she sunk 11 points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds. Walas was solid at the line as she went 4-4, and also had 12 points and four rebounds on the night.
“We came out really intense,” Linker said. “Our defense was key at the beginning of the game because we shut them down at the start. Loyola played us tight, so some of our plays worked better because we were able to run some back doors and some screens.”
Head coach Marnie Dacko echoed Linker’s sentiments.
“We played extremely well. We came out and played good defense,” she commented. “Loyola has strong perimeter players and talented athletes in the paint that can score, but we shut them down.”
Cornell faced Army, the tournament host, in the finals on Saturday night, but ran into early foul trouble. Four whistles in the first six minutes gave Army an open door. It took advantage of the opportunity and capitalized by making 15 of 22 free throws in the first half off 16 fouls. The Red fended off a big half-time margin with three-pointers from Force and sophomore guard Katie Romey in the final minutes before halftime. Cornell ended the beginning 20 minutes of play down 35-34.
The referees decided Cornell did not commit enough fouls in the first half and supplied it with 15 more in the second, for a total of 31 on the game. The Cadets again used the whistle to their advantage, scoring the final 14 points of the game on the free shot. Cornell came within two points of the tournament winners, but could not keep up with the determined and vocal Cadets.
Dacko was especially frustrated about the foul situation. The referees were not letting the teams play the game, and at one point, the ball changed possession four times without a shot taken.
“Foul-trouble was a factor, but we just weren’t executing,” Linker pointed out. “It was not really as good as the game against Loyola-Chicago. Fouls took us out of our game because we were getting caught on a lot of our screens, but they out-played us.”
The Red kept the game close in the first by shooting 43.5% (10-23) from inside the arc, but dropped to 36.7% (11-30) in the second. Cornell did not get as many opportunities for the free point as Army committed 19 fouls, spread evenly over the two halves.
Linker and Force, both named to the all-tournament team, had solid repeat performances. Linker netted 11 points and went 2-2 from the line, while Force again lead the team with 16 points and minutes played. Walas continues on her way to recovery as she had 11 points on the night.
Dacko used the team’s play to pinpoint an area that needs improvement in future games.
“There are still some people that have to step up and gain more confidence in themselves,” she mentioned. “I have confidence in the players, but the players have to believe in themselves and not be so reluctant because they have the ability to do it.”
Despite coming out of the weekend with a 1-1 record, Dacko was impressed.
“We have a tremendous team. These are the best players I have ever been able to coach,” she elated. “Now we need to take our play to the next level and we need people to step up even when the calls are not going our way.”
The Red’s next action will come over Thanksgiving weekend in a tournament in Atlanta at Georgia Tech.
Archived article by Katherine Granish