February 17, 2003

Lady Cagers Drop Two on Road to Green, Crimson

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There’s something about Harvard-Cornell games that always seems to bring out the best in Cornell’s athletic teams. In a rematch of last season’s double-overtime classic at Newman Arena, Cornell (7-14, 1-7 Ivy) rallied from a 42-25 halftime deficit against the league leader to tie the game at 71 with less than a minute left to play. However, the Crimson proceeded to score the game’s final six points, maintaining its perfect record in league play while extending the Red’s losing streak to four.

On Friday night, visitor Dartmouth hit five of its first six field goal attempts to storm out to an early 11-0 lead. A Dani Aretino layup finally ended the run, but the Green continued to chip away at the Red with a balanced offense, entering the locker room with a comfortable 30-20 advantage.

After a sloppy opening two minutes to the second period, junior Karen Force hit her only 3-pointer of the game to cut the lead to 30-23. The Red continued to stay within touching distance early on in the half, but a three from Dartmouth freshman Angela Soriaga at the 8:16 mark stretched the lead to 53-42. Soriaga would finish the contest with a team-high 15 points and seven assists.

Six straight points by the Red cut the lead to 53-48 and Cornell appeared to be right back in the game when a pair of Lynell Davis free throws made it 55-52. Soriaga responded with two more at the charity stripe, before the Red proceeded to miss its next four field goal attempts. Dartmouth’s Keri Downs then sank five of six free throws inside the last minute to ice the game at 63-58.

In a losing effort, Davis had a career night recording 18 points, 14 rebounds, and six blocks. Davis’ stellar performance also helped to contain the Green’s center Katharine Hanks, who had come into Newman Arena averaging 18.8 points per game. Hanks was held to only 11 points on 4-13 shooting, although she did notch 13 rebounds.

Prior to Saturday’s matchup against the high-flying Crimson, all the numbers pointed to an easy Harvard win. With a 7-0 mark in Ivy League play, and a dominating inside presence in Hana Peljto, Harvard pulled away midway through the first half, opening up a commanding 42-25 lead at the break.

As against Dartmouth, it was Force who jump-started the offense to begin the second half, as she quickly drained a pair of three’s to make it 42-31. Sensing that the game was still within the Red’s reach, Harvard looked to its leading scorer to close the door on Cornell’s comeback bid. Peljto, who is averaging an impressive 21 points a game, would score eight of her team’s next 20 points, helping the Crimson to extend its lead to 62-45.

In last season’s game, it was an unlikely 12-0 run by the Red at the end of regulation that sent the game into overtime, and the crowd into a state of frenzy. While Saturday’s game did not have the same title implications, the ensuing comeback from a 17-point deficit proved to be equally stirring. In a remarkable 10-minute stretch in the second half, the Red had the league’s premier team with its back against the wall.

Force provided much of the inspiration in a 24-7 run that was capped by an unlikely game-tying three from freshman Sarah Brown. The shot was only the second field goal of Brown’s young Cornell career, and without a doubt her most important contribution to date.

Two free throws by Reka Cserny momentarily restored the Crimson’s advantage, but Force’s jumper at the 1:02 mark knotted the score at 71. In a sequence reminiscent of last year’s game at Newman Arena, Harvard then worked the ball patiently to Peljto, who converted a layup with 33 ticks on the clock. A timeout later, Cserny came up trumps, blocking a Force shot, before sinking the two free throws to clinch a hard-fought win.

Force finished with 28 points, connecting on five of eight attempts from beyond the arc.

After falling short on both comeback bids over the weekend, the Red was left to lament its poor first half performances in either game.

“I don’t think we went flat at the end of the games,” observed Davis. “We just dug ourselves into holes. If we don’t dig ourselves those holes, we’re definitely capable of beating these teams. We’re playing partial halves — we haven’t put together two halves, we keep falling into these slumps.”

With two more defeats, the Red falls to 1-7 in league play, and is in the midst of a four-game slide. Yet, Davis remains optimistic about her team’s chances in the remainder of the season.

“I definitely think we’ve been making a lot of progress,” she said. “We’ve had breakthroughs in many areas, especially in our shooting percentage. We’re learning something new from each other, and we’re becoming a better team with each game we play. We’re very much on the same page as a team.”

Archived article by Soo Kim