The women’s basketball team could have gone into this weekend thinking about the past. Its two-point overtime loss to Columbia last Saturday was heartbreaking, and not one player on the team had ever swept a Pennsylvania/Princeton weekend.
Fortunately for the Red, history is not one of the team’s strong points.
This new weekend, and new team, saw Cornell (11-8, 5-1 Ivy) not simply eke out two wins, but dominate two worthy opponents.
The Red sank a total of 39 more points than it needed to secure the two victories and is now off to its best league start ever.
“Intensity” and “desire” were the words that senior tri-captain guard Deborah Stevens used to describe the two wins.
“It was just a lot of hard work by the team and an overall team effort,” senior tri-captain and guard Breean Walas agreed.
On Friday night, Cornell suited up for its game against last year’s Ivy Champions, Penn. Despite the fact that, at the time, the Quakers had only won one of their three conference games, the Red was prepared for a battle against the perennial powerhouse.
The first half was much like most of Cornell’s games. The Red lead was 30-23, sizable but not comfortable. Similar to the final five minutes of the Columbia game, Cornell missed its last 11 shots; opening the door for Penn to close the 10-point advantage the Red had built with eight minutes remaining in the half.
Unlike its game against the Lions, however, Cornell relied on defense to carry it through the cold streak. Over the last 10 minutes of the half, Penn was held to only 2-for-12 shooting from the field.
In the second half, Penn (6-12, 2-3) was able to get within five-points of the lead, but a 12-1 run by Cornell put the game out of reach with eight minutes to go. The Red won by a final score of 77-61.
Both teams made 13 baskets in the final 20 minutes, but Cornell ultimately pulled ahead by making 11 more free throws than the Quakers, who only sank eight.
Stevens tallied a team-high 19 points, eight assists, and a game-high five steals. Sophomore tri-captain Karen Force added 14 points, while junior forward 0Ify Ossai nailed 11 points, and classmate Lynell Davis grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
On Saturday night, Cornell faced Princeton (8-10, 3-4), who proved a less formidable opponent than expected.
In the first half, the Red used a 16-0 run to build a 23-8 lead, but freshman 3-point master Karen Bolster kept the Tigers in the game by nailing four-straight threes. Despite the barrage of shots beyond the arc, the Red battled back to own a 41-30 lead at the half.
The second half was much like the first as a 21-7 Cornell run, combined with a 0-for-6 3-point effort from Bolster and a 5-for-25 field goal effort from the Tigers, ensured that it would come out on top. The Red handily won by a score of 77-52.
“I have never smiled on the court that much,” Stevens quipped.
Stevens again recorded a game-high 19 points; Ossai tallied 13 points and nine rebounds, and sophomore forward Tanya Karcic scored 12 points to go along with six rebounds.
Cornell remains one-half game ahead of Harvard (13-6, 4-1) at the top of the Ivy standings. The Crimson swept Brown and Yale this weekend.
The Red will be back in action next weekend when it travels to face Dartmouth and Harvard in another critical league weekend.
“Hopefully we will do a rewind [of these two games] next weekend,” Stevens said.
“We were all very excited about winning. It is good to sweep a weekend like that and it is another stepping-stone in our season,” Walas concluded.
Archived article by Katherine Granish