Relishing the role of underdog, the women’s basketball team put in a gutsy performance yesterday afternoon in its home debut against Rice. Although the Lady Owls (3-0) eventually pulled away for a 76-63 win, the Red (1-3) put a scare into a team with serious aspirations of a NCAA tournament bid. Rice overcame an early 13-point deficit and relied on some clutch shooting to hold off a feisty Cornell side.
Earlier in the week, the Red had notched its first win of the season in a nail-biting finish against Albany. With the score tied at 62 and with only 2.2 seconds remaining, senior guard Do Stevens found sophomore Karen Force for a game-winning layup. Cornell had been playing catch-up all game long, gaining its first lead inside the last two minutes.
With Albany center Danielle Hutcheson pounding inside for 21 points and 15 rebounds, the Red trailed 27-13 midway into the first half. Sophomore Lauren Kilduff came off the bench to keep the Red close, scoring 11 of her team high 13 points in the first half. With the starters regaining their shooting touch, the women clawed back in the second half, setting up the frantic finale.
As if to compensate for the slow start against Albany, the Red stormed out of the gates yesterday against the favored Lady Owls. Force’s trey ignited a 12-0 run to start the game, leaving Rice shell-shocked.
The Lady Owls settled down, going on a 10-0 run of their own to cut the lead to 12-10 but Cornell responded by raising the tempo again. Sophomore Dani
Aretino capped another 12-0 run with a strong drive to the hole, extending the lead to 33-20.
As half-time approached, Rice looked to enter the locker-room on a high. Point guard Kim Lawson rallied the Owls, scoring seven consecutive points to slice into the margin. On the final possession of the half, Jennifer Rigg tipped in a buzzer beater, and the once formidable lead had dwindled to just two points. The Red had been creating a host of second shot opportunities through some aggressive rebounding, and Rice’s failure to box out. It was of little comfort to Rice that Force, one of the smallest players on the court, had five rebounds at the break.
It was difficult to tell which team had benefited more from the interval, as the two sides see-sawed back and forth. The Lady Owls, who had struggled with their shooting in the first half, began to gain confidence behind the hot shooting of Kara Liggett. The junior guard hit 4-7 from beyond the arc for a team high 15 points, with 12 coming in the second period. For the moment, the Red looked content to match basket for basket, as sophomore Tanya Karcic gave Cornell a 53-52 lead at the 10:51 mark. It was to be the Red’s last field goal of the game.
Stevens had carried the scoring load in the first half with 12 points, but foul trouble prevented her from being effective in the second period. With the offense sputtering in the last ten minutes of the contest, Stevens fouled out with 15 points and 6 rebounds. Although Force did well to continually drive to the basket and draw fouls, the Owls eventually made the Red pay for its poor shooting. Rice closed out the game with a 16-5 run accentuated by Liggett’s three pointer at the buzzer. Force finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds in the losing effort.
Head Coach Marnie Dacko remained philosophical in defeat.
“Three years ago, they killed us,” she recalled. “They’re a nice ball club very athletic, very deep, quicker than us.”
The game proved to a tale of two halves, with Rice coming off the better after the break.
“They picked up on their defensive intensity,” admitted Dacko. “They only allowed us to take one shot and they were making the shots they were missing in the first half. They were just like ice.”
Although the Owls had a clear size advantage over the Red, Coach Dacko’s game plan forced Rice to try and win it from outside.
“We were going on two games, the Texas A&M game and the UMass game,” she said. “We watched the films of those games and everything was going inside, so we took the middle away and gave up the outside shot.”
Rice duly complied, connecting on 11-27 three pointers.
The women will return to action on tomorrow night, when they host Binghamton at Newman Arena.
Archived article by Soo Kim