March 10, 2003

Lady Cagers Split Final Two

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After starting its final weekend this season in spectacular fashion, the women’s basketball team (10-17, 4-10 Ivy) wasn’t able to end it the same way. The Red, however, did come away with many positives that it will build on for next year.

On Friday, Cornell faced Princeton (9-18, 4-9) in a rematch of a contest the Red lost by three points earlier in the year.

With a slow start in which both teams only tallied two points in the first five minutes, Cornell was the first to break out of its slump and went on to score 11 unanswered points. Over the course of the rest of the half, the Tigers twice battled to within seven but could not come any closer.

Despite scoring seven of the last 11 points in the first half, Princeton still went into its locker room down 31-20.

The second half featured even more fight from the Tigers, yet they never got closer than six points. Cornell began pulling away as the game wound down and won by a score of 64-50.

“It felt good. Right from the beginning, we came out and played our type of basketball. We were very effective offensively and made some nice shots,” head coach Dana Smith said. “Defensively, we did a good job containing their forwards. We were proud of how the team played.”

The win could not have gone any better for the Red, as it saw contributions from several players. Senior forward Lynell Davis gave her team something to remember, as she scored a game-high 16 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and had four blocks. Junior Karen Force tallied 12 points, and classmate Lauren Kilduff had 11. Both guards had six rebounds and four assists on the night.

Junior forward Dani Aretino demonstrated starter-like qualities, as she notched the first double-double of her career, netting 11 points and grabbing a game-high 17 rebounds.

As a team, Cornell outrebounded and outshot Princeton by significant margins. The Red had 50 rebounds to the Tigers’ 32 and shot 36.5 percent from the field compared to the visitors’ 29.8 percent effort.

“Instead of trying to make Princeton adjust to us, we tweaked our defense a little bit to adjust to what they were trying to run. We stopped their offensive flow, and I don’t think Princeton ever got into a rhythm,” said Smith.

Undoubtedly, the win was also due to Cornell’s success from the free throw line. The Red had 28 opportunities from the charity stripe, double that of Princeton, and made 23 of them. The Tigers, on the other hand, made 10 of their chances.

Saturday night, however, was a different story for the Red.

“It was a tough one,” Smith said of the contest. “After coming off such a good win, it was tough to follow up with a night like that.”

Fresh off a 72-62 win over Columbia the previous night, Penn was eager to continue its success. Cornell, however, also wanted to finish its season on a high note, and after the opening minutes of the first half, the game was tied at nine.

The Quakers then used a 15-5 run to stretch its lead into the double digits and continued to increase the margin to a 35-22 halftime score.

“The first half, Penn just came out on fire. We were right there with defense with a hand in their face. They just had a great first half,” Smith commented. “Early on, we put ourselves in a position where we had a lead and our offense was clicking, and then they got on a roll. Their runs were just a little bit greater than ours. They were just on fire. That part was tough.”

In the second half, Cornell surged to within four points with a 20-7 run, but Penn responded with another run to increase its lead back to 10. The Red battled to within five points, but the Quakers then silenced Cornell for the remainder of the contest. Penn won 65-52.

“We have been in that situation during the season, where we have been down and battled back and we didn’t give up, and we did that again,” Smith sighed. “It was just a little too late.”

Davis ended her Cornell career with another solid effort and scored 13 points with seven boards.

“Over the last month and a half, Lynell really showed that she was not ready to be done,” Smith praised. “She turned up her game and she really battled down in the post with a lot of the other forwards in the league and showed she belonged in the top of the league.”

Senior Ify Ossai also had a fine pair of games to end her career, scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds.

“Ify is such a scrappy player, she works hard on defense, she is an emotional player and gets our team fired up,” Smith said.

Kilduff was the story of this game, however, as she netted 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting with nine rebounds. Force also had a good game with seven points, six rebounds, and 10 assists. Aretino added a game-high 14 rebounds and three points.

“We fought back [against Penn] and some people really stepped up. Lynell was hot there for a while, Dani was doing a good job rebounding, and of course Lauren had a terrific game,” Smith observed.

Although Cornell outrebounded Penn 47-34, the difference in this game came from the field. Penn was on fire and made 48.9 percent of its shots while Cornell could only find the bottom of the net 29.2 percent of the time.

“We talked after the game and looked back from our very first meeting in August when I told them our goal was to get better every single day,” Smith said. “I told them if you look in the mirror and take a look at what our team has done this season, we can honestly say we did get better every single day. A lot of people really stepped up this season and improved their individual games, and I think this is going to be a great stepping-stone for next season.”

The win on Friday marked the fifth season in a row that the Red has won 10 or more games overall.

“They are two quality people. They gave us their all every single day,” Smith said of Davis and Ossai. “We were sad that we couldn’t end it on a good note for them and pull one out, but we told them they were going to be with this team for a long time, and I told them I hope someday we can make them proud that they were part of this program.”

Archived article by Katherine Granish