February 24, 2006

Red Takes On Ivy Foes

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Despite having been eliminated from contention for the Ivy League crown, the women’s basketball team (8-15, 5-5 Ivy) has a chance to make a major impact as to who will win the title on Saturday. Cornell will play its last road games of the season this weekend when it takes on last-place Yale (2-21, 1-9) tonight before facing first-place Brown (15-8, 9-1) on Saturday. It is the second straight road weekend for the team, which is looking to get over .500 in Ivy League competition for the first time since Feb. 3.

The Brown matchup will be especially critical for the Red, as the squad is looking to avenge a bitter 71-68 home loss to the Bears. The team is also out to prove it can compete with the best teams in the Ancient Eight.

“I think our players are really excited about having another opportunity at [Brown],” said women’s head coach Dayna Smith. “I feel good about where we are preparation-wise.”

Friday night will see Cornell face off against Yale. The Red had lost its three prior contests with the Bulldogs before it beat them 79-68 Feb. 11.

“Where they are in the standings doesn’t matter to us,” Smith said. “We know any team in this league can beat any other team.”

The Red is led by freshman Jeomi Maduka, who won her seventh Ivy League Rookie of the Week award this week. That mark tied sophomore Lindsay Krasna’s yearly total from her rookie campaign last season. Maduka, who ranks second in the league in scoring (15.1 points per game) and rebounding (7.1 rebounds per game), helped the Red come back from a 10-point second-half deficit against the Quakers last Saturday. She scored 13 of her 21 points in the final frame, hitting a game-sealing reverse layup in the closing minutes, drawing a foul and hitting a free throw in the process.

Fellow rookie Kayleen Fitzsimmons will be at the point after also playing a major role in the comeback win. Fitzsimmons hit three 3-pointers in the closing minutes to help dig the Red out of its hole. Ftizsimmons is ranked seventh in the Ivy League in assists. Junior Claire Perry (12.7 points per game) and Krasna (10.1 points per game) also spearhead the Red attack, which ranks third in the Ancient Eight in scoring and second in offensive rebounds.

As good as the Red’s offense has been, Yale’s offense has been the complete opposite. The squad is statistically the worst in the Ivies offensively, averaging just over 50 points per game – the lowest number of any team by more than five points per game.

Yale is second-worst in field goal percentage, and lacks a player who averages double-digits in points per game.

The team – believing Smith’s motto that there is parity in the Ivy League – is not taking its opponents lightly.

“They have a very athletic guard in [Chinenye] Okafor,” Smith said. “Yale has some very tall post players. I thought we did a good job with them in the first game. But we got into some earlier foul trouble.”

The Bulldogs also lack talent on the defensive side of the ball, as the team is ranked second-to-last in field goal percentage allowed. Although the Bulldogs may not be one of the league’s better defensive teams, the Red has been by far the Ivy League’s worst. Cornell is last in scoring defense and field goal percentage allowed.

The Red has not defeated a single squad currently ranked higher than them in the Ivy standings, but starting Saturday, the team will play three teams that have better records in conference play. The Brown game will therefore not only be the season’s toughest challenge – as the Red faces the top team in the league on its home court – it will set the tone for the rest of the season, as Cornell faces teams it lost to earlier this season.

“We’re not quite looking forward to the Harvard [and] Dartmouth weekend. We’re focused on the Yale game,” Smith said.

Archived article by Josh Perlin
Sun Staff Writer