For the women’s basketball team, the importance of this weekend’s play is the difference between the East Hill and Mount Everest.
Consider this: going into this weekend’s matches against Yale and Brown, the Red was 2-4 in conference action, with eight games remaining over the next four weeks. Combined with a disastrous offensive slump, two ticks in the loss column would have paved an impossible road for the team to capture its Ivy title.
With so many odds against it, Cornell pulled out two Ws that should bring it more respect during its second round of action against the league.
“We wanted it, we kept the pressure on, and didn’t give up, and that is what our team is all about,” freshman forward Tanya Karcic cheerfully pointed out.
Friday night the Red (11-10, 4-4 Ivy) shared the court with Yale (6-15, 1-7 Ivy). The first half was neck and neck, ending with the Red up by one, 37-36. Not only was the score close, but so were the statistics. Cornell outshot Yale from the floor, 42.3% to 38.2% and in free throws, 82.4% to 77.8%.
Going into the second period, Cornell had to face the prospect of running out of gas. Against Harvard and Dartmouth the preceding weekend, the Red played one decent half in each game, and broke down in the other, succumbing to poor shooting that had overwhelmingly plagued the team.
This half could not have been more different. Cornell sank more than double the points Yale put in, topped it off with a 12-0 run at the middle mark, and outscored the Elis, 45-21. The team bettered its first half marks by nailing 47.1% from the field and an incredible 90.9% from the charity stripe.
Junior guard Do Stevens was the shining star of this game, landing game-highs in points (30) and steals (6). While hitting 11-of-18 field goals, 2-of-3 three-pointers, and 6-of-8 free throws, she pulled down seven rebounds.
“Do stepped it up big time. She played awesome. I’ve seen her play for many years, and I don’t think I have seen her play that well before,” junior back court mate Breean Walas remarked.
Although Stevens’ contribution could have been enough to lead the team, it was not the only reason the Red won 82-57. Sophomore forward Lynell Davis had 10 points and seven rebounds, Karcic had a team-high nine rebounds, and Walas went 7-for-7 from the free throw line while racking up 12 points.
As a team, the Red sank 45% of its field goals (27-for-60) and 85.7% of its free throws (24-for-28).
For Yale, sophomore guard Maria Smear had the team-highs in points and assists with 14 and four, respectively. Smear was the only Bulldog to score in double-digits.
Twenty-four hours later, Brown came to Newman Arena looking to recover from its second conference loss this season. The Bears had fallen 60-48 to Columbia the previous night and needed a win to preserve its second place ranking in the league. But Cornell played like it owned the victory from the beginning.
In the first half, the Red got off to a 7-0 start with a trey from Stevens, and four points from sophomore forward Katie Romey. Up by 11 with seven minutes remaining, the home team was in control of the Bears, limiting them to only three jumpers and four points off free throws for a 21-10 lead. At half time, Cornell found its advantage had shrunk to five points with a 28-23 lead as Brown began to regain some composure.
Going 10-for-28 (35.7%) from the field and holding the lead for the entire half, the buzzer signified the sixtieth minute that Cornell had played over the past two days without taking itself out of contention with missed shots or miscommunication.
Cornell opened the second with a 13-6 run that gave it a 12-point lead, its largest of the game at 15:46.
Fueling the Bears’ comeback was a foul on Romey that forced her to leave the game at 11:08. The effect on the rest of the squad was felt immediately, as she had scored seven of the Red’s 16 points in the half up to that moment.
After she was carried off the court, the team looked unmistakably shaken until senior forward Jennifer Linker converted on a drive to the basket, drew a foul and sank it to lift the Red 47-37.
Brown played catch-up for the next six minutes, eventually tying the game 48-all with 5:51 to go on four straight points from 6’4″ junior center Rachel MacDonald. Davis promptly answered with a three-point play, but the Bears closed the gap at 3:05 to within two of the Red, 56-54. Cornell shut down the Bears for the final two minutes of the half, allowing them just three attempts. A huge offensive rebound by sophomore forward Ify Ossai with 30 seconds to go was the insurance that gave Cornell the win by a score of 66-56.
Cornell made 44% of its field goals, 75% of its three pointers, and 72.2% of its foul shots to seal the victory.
“We are coming out of that shooting slump. It was nice to be home, nice to have all the fans here, and that helped out a lot,” Walas noticed.
This win is truly described as a team victory. Four players had double digits in points: Romey, Walas, freshman guard Karen Force, and Karcic had 14, 12, 11, and 10, respectively, and two others, Stevens and Davis, contributed with eight.
Against Yale, the Red nabbed 13 offensive rebounds to the Bulldog’s 17, but had 48 total boards compared to the visitor’s 38. Surprisingly, Cornell got 35 total rebounds to Brown’s 51, and was out rebounded offensively 25 to 12.
Head coach Marnie Dacko commented on the rebounds.
“We have been working on the last two weeks on rebounds, and we gave away too many offensive boards tonight, but then they gelled,” she said of the game against Brown. “They moved the ball extremely well offensively, they are trusting each other and making better decisions, so that helped us pull out the win.”
The two wins have given the team a renewed outlook on the rest of the season.
“We needed to win, and we needed to win at home,” Walas commented. “It gets us back up to .500. We have eight games to go, and we are not giving up on this season. We could have given up after we lost three straight, but we didn’t. We keep fighting back.”
Stevens echoed similar sentiments.
“The season is now basically what we make of it. This can be a winning season, or a losing season, and it’s all up to us. We can pull our season around, and if we keep playing well we can,” she mentioned.
Dacko remained humble while saying that the team “takes it a game at a time, and doesn’t look beyond. We try to improve with each game and try to learn what we need to work on.”
Dacko also said that Romey is resting and will hopefully be able to return to practice in a few days.
Cornell travel next weekend to face Pennsylvania and Princeton.
“We need gamers, and I think this team is now believing they can be gamers,” Dacko ended positively.
Archived article by Katherine Granish