As each senior on the women’s basketball team left the Newman Arena floor on Saturday night, the crowd roared in appreciation. It was a fitting ending to the six seniors’ careers on their home court, as the Red (9-16, 4-8 Ivy) rolled over Princeton 71-61 on Senior Night. The previous night against league-leading Penn (15-9, 9-2 Ivy), Cornell rallied back from a nine-point deficit with under two minutes to play, but the Quakers were able to hold on to defeat the Red, 69-66.
“I’m very happy with our effort this weekend. I wish we didn’t have to play Penn [on Friday]. If we showed that effort against any other team in the league, we probably could have beat them,” said head coach Dayna Smith.
The Red jumped out to a 9-3 lead against Penn, as senior tri-captain Karen Force connected with classmate Tanya Karcic down court for a fast break lay-up. The Quakers answered with an 8-0 run, and the game went back and forth for most of the half. The teams went into the locker room with the game knotted at 27.
The back-and-forth battle continued in the second half, as neither team was able to hold on to a lead for very long. Down 52-47 with 7:48 to play, Penn mounted a 12-0 run over the next three minutes to go up by seven.
With 1:51 left in the game, Penn held its largest lead of the game, up 68-59. The Red surged back, as Karcic grabbed a rebound off after a missed Cornell free throw, and found Force open on the perimeter. Force launched the three as she was knocked down, and connected to cut the lead to five.
Karcic got to the line, as she was fouled after grabbing a rebound after a Clark miss at the other end. After trading free throws, the Red had one last chance to tie the game with four seconds left. Force raced down the court, and fired a shot from 27 feet out, but the shot fell short as the buzzer sounded.
Despite the loss, Smith praised her team’s effort in the near comeback.
“I’m really proud of our team right now. That was just a battle, that was just a street basketball game, both teams wanted it badly, and unfortunately Penn came out on top, but I’m very proud of effort. I’m proud of the way we competed.”
Karcic and Force combined for 50 of the Red’s 66 points as Karcic led all scorers with 27. Senior tri-captain Lauren Kilduff had a solid all-around effort, with 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
The six members of the class of 2004 were honored before Saturday night’s game, and were eager to avenge the team’s earlier loss at Princeton.
“Although we lost to Princeton the first game, I came into this game believing that we were the better team. I think we all knew that if we played hard and had fun doing it, we would come out on top. That’s exactly what happened, and it was a great way to end for the all of us seniors,” said senior tri-captain Katie Romey.
Cornell relied on its perimeter shooting for most of the game, and was able to pull away early from a short-handed Tiger team.
“We knew they were going to go zone. They played us all zone last game, and they’ve been hurting, they’ve been down in numbers, so we figured it would be a zone. We took a couple more three’s that we would liked, I thought we settled for them early in the first half. We took care of the ball tonight and stepped into our shots and knocked them down,” said Smith.
The Red led from the opening tip-off, and finished the half with a 14-4 run, and led 41-25 at the break.
“We knew that if we played tough defense and were smart on offense, the game could be an easy one. We were intense on defense, our shots were falling and we owned the boards, we played our kind of basketball and before we knew it, we were up by 16 points,” said Kilduff.
Cornell’s dominance continued in the second half, as it stretched its lead to 25 points with 13 minutes remaining. Princeton crept back into the game, but could never mount a big scoring run. The Tigers went to their press in the second half, but the Red held firm.
With the game securely in hand in the final minutes, Smith took the seniors out one by one.
“I was so happy we won, and happy that the team had played well, but it was definitely an unsettling feeling knowing it was the last time I would be on this court with my teammates,” said Kilduff.
Kilduff and Romey led the way for the Red, scoring 22 and 15 points respectively. Senior Dani Aretino dominated the boards, with eight of her 12 rebounds coming off the offensive glass. While Karcic was limited to two points, she notched a game-high seven assists.
With her 12 assists on the weekend, Force moved up to sixth all-time in the Ivy League, with 444 for her career. She also became Cornell’s fifth all-time leading scorer, with 1240 career points. Force will have a chance to move up in both categories next weekend in the team’s final games of the season.
Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach