To pull off an upset of first-place Dartmouth (13-8, 9-0 Ivy) and third-place Harvard (15-7, 7-2 Ivy) last weekend, the women’s basketball team needed to deliver an inspired, flawless performance on the court. However, the Red (2-21, 0-10 Ivy) could not meet the challenge, falling to the Green, 88-51, and then the Crimson, 70-60.
In the first minutes of Friday’s game, the Red kept it close with the Green. But the undefeated Green picked up its game, dominating the boards and picking off passes.
“It was disappointing,” said Cornell head coach Dayna Smith. “We let our guard down. We didn’t respect how hard they’d go. They are not going to back down when you turn it up a notch.”
The Green opened up a double-point lead for the first time with under eight minutes remaining in the half, and had a comfortable 44-23 lead at the break. Cornell tried to find its groove early in the second half, putting up two quick baskets and two early steals. But Dartmouth put the game out of reach on the strength of 70.8 percent shooting in the second half. Junior Jeannie Cullen lit up Newman Arena for 29 points — one short of her career high — including a 6-for-7 performance in the second half. Cullen sparked a 24-4 run after the intermission, and the Green never looked back.
The Red couldn’t catch up, shooting only 28.6 percent for the game. Sophomore Amy Lyon, the team’s third-leading scorer, did not hit on any of her nine field goal attempts. Rookie sensation Lindsey Krasna and sophomore Claire Perry were held to single digits in points.
A bright spot for the Red was the play of freshmen Morgan Dickens and Gretchen Gregg who both scored 10 points.
“I was very happy with Gretchen Gregg’s performance,” Smith said. “Coming in, not hesitating — we need that.”
Center Elise Morrison helped Dartmouth to the lopsided victory with her play inside, pouring in 21 points, while rookie Sydney Scott added 13.
The Red found some inner fire for Saturday night’s game, staying close to Harvard throughout and grabbing the lead midway through the second half. “[Friday] night, we just didn’t show up,” Smith said. “I think [Saturday night] shows that when we come out with fire, we can play with teams.”
Cornell started strong, just as it had the previous night. However, the Red managed to maintain that intensity for the entire game. With eight minutes to play, down 59-47, the Red went on a 13-6 run to pull within five points. But the Crimson forced two turnovers and sealed the game from the charity stripe, hitting five of six free throws in the final minute of a very physical encounter.
“Maybe some calls didn’t go our way, but we can’t use that as an excuse,” Smith said. “I’m happy with how physical [we] played.”
The Red’s season-long weakness in the paint was the difference once again, as center Reka Cserny led Harvard with 22 points, and forwards Shana Franklin and Kate Mannering added ten and 14 points, respectively. Maureen McCaffery continued her solid play off the bench for the Crimson, putting up 11 points.
“We’re going to try and really focus on more team defense,” Smith said. “When we do that, we execute the game plan. If we have good positioning early, guards can help.”
Cornell shot a season-best 47.8 percent from the field. Lyon had a team-high 13 points, with classmates Claire Perry and Katherine Stritzl adding 12 each, and Gregg adding 10 for the second night in a row.
The balanced attack helped the Red stay close, but 30 turnovers and the wear and tear of the Ivy schedule were also key factors in the result.
“We have to learn how to play tired,” Smith said. “We have to learn that when we get mentally tired. we can’t let the physical side slip.”
The Crimson also limited Krasna to eight points, and pressured her at every opportunity.
“Harvard doubled her every time she had the ball,” Smith said. “Teams are starting to key in on her. Other people have to step up. We need someone leadership-wise to show up and challenge us on the court.”
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Staff Writer