After trading games with travel partner Columbia, the women’s basketball team welcomes two-time defending league champion Harvard (7-7, 0-1 Ivy) and Dartmouth (8-6, 1-0 Ivy) to Newman Arena tonight and tomorrow at 7 p.m. The Red (6-9, 1-1 Ivy) bested Columbia by 11 points two weeks ago in New York City, but the Lions got revenge last weekend in Ithaca, coming away with a nine-point win.
“As far as Harvard and Dartmouth are concerned, they’re two very talented teams with many scoring options on both sides,” said head coach Dayna Smith. “They both are very post-oriented teams, so we are going to focus more on post defense. They are two similar teams, and we can’t really focus in on one particular player because they have so much talent.”
Last Saturday, the Lions jumped out to the early lead, were ahead by 10 at halftime, and never trailed. Down by 16 with two and a half minutes to play, the Red closed the gap to eight with under a minute to play but could not complete the comeback.
Senior tri-captain Karen Force led all scorers with 25 points, and her four assists pushed her over 400 for her career. She is the only player in program history to score 1000 points and tally 400 assists.
With two excellent teams in town for the weekend, the Red needs to step up its level of play from last weekend, and that started with a productive week of practice.
“I think this week we focused a lot on ourselves; we had to get back to some basics. I think we have been preparing for the two top teams, but more importantly we need to work on our intensity level, our offensive execution and our competing on both ends of the floor. I think we’ve had a very good week of practice,” said Smith.
Harvard saw its 26-game league winning streak snapped three weeks ago at Dartmouth. The Green’s Angelo Soriaga nailed a 30-foot buzzer beater to send the game into overtime, and Dartmouth came away with the five-point win.
“Teams in this league beat up on each other, and it just hadn’t happened to Harvard in a while. That game could have gone either way, it was a great game,” commented Smith. “Harvard, even though they have one loss, [are] obviously the defending champions. They’re as good as ever, and we’re going to have to come out ready to play.”
In order for the Red to be victorious this weekend, it needs to defend well in its own end, and get all of its starters involved in the point production.
“Both teams like to play some zone, so we have to have some of our players hit some open shots. We’ve worked on the competitiveness at practice, and pushing our starting forwards a little bit more,” said Smith. “Our non-starters have done a great job this week challenging the starting core.”
With its first two-game weekend in a month, the Red’s bench will play a crucial factor as well.
“This week we need some of our guards to hit some open shots when they come in off the bench,” said Smith. “I think they understand that there’s more opportunity to play this weekend, and hopefully they’ll be ready.”
Harvard and Dartmouth have a lot of offensive weapons, as the Crimson’s Hana Peljto and Reka Cserny are first and third in the league in scoring. The Green’s Jeannie Cullen and Elise Morrison are tied for fourth, while the Red’s Tanya Karcic is seventh, averaging 15.7 points per game.
Past Cornell-Harvard games at Newman Arena have offered a lot of excitement. Two years ago, the Red and the Crimson were battling for sole possession of first place in the Ivy League. Harvard came away with a two-point win in double overtime after Cornell rallied from a 12-point deficit with under three minutes to play in regulation. Last year, the Red came back from a 17-point halftime deficit to tie the game with a minute left, but again, Harvard came away with the win.
If the past two years are any indication, tonight’s contest should also be one to remember. Dartmouth is also a tough opponent, and Saturday’s game should be a hard fought one as well.
Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach