January 26, 2007

W. Cagers Look to Defend Home Court

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“We must protect this house,” says the buff man in the Under Armour commercials.

The women’s basketball team may hope to follow this motto as Columbia swings into Ithaca for the second game of a home-and-home series with Cornell.

Last weekend, the Red (7-9, 3-0 Ivy) used a 15-2 run at the outset of the first stanza to build a 37-19 lead. Columbia (4-12, 0-3 Ivy) poked and prodded at the lead, but never got within single digits of the Red’s score as the team held on for a 67-51 victory. With both teams given a week to tinker with their strategies, sophomore forward Shannan Scarselletta feels maintaining focus throughout the game is the key to success.

[img_assist|nid=20944|title=Perfect form|desc=Perfect form. Sophomore Shannon Scarselletta attempts a free throw during the Red’s 90-47 win over McGill on Nov. 11.|link=none|align=left|width=65|height=100]

“We need to keep up the energy level in the second half,” she said. “This past game we kind of slacked a little in the second half. They picked it up and we didn’t respond. Now we’re ready.”

Oddly enough, the Red have been primarily a second half team this season, overcoming weak first halves to record a win over Princeton and come within one point of knocking off Binghamton.

“Columbia is a lot like us,” Scarselletta said. “They’re a very emotional team like us, and can make runs like us.”

According to head coach Dayna Smith, Columbia made some changes that took the Red out of their game plan.

“In the first half, we were very aggressive on the defensive end,” she said. “In the second half they started penetrating more and making our forwards help. They ran a lot of on-ball screens that made our forwards come out to play defense.”

“They’ll probably focus more on the posts [this weekend],” Scarselletta said. “They might double down on our forwards more. But, honestly, we’re still trying to figure out what they’re going to change. We’re ready for anything, though. We can play whatever they throw at us.”

The other point of contention is the full court press that the Lions pressured the Red with for nearly all 40 minutes of last week’s affair.

a“We expect them to press us like they did last week,” Smith said. “That’s kind of their strategy in most games. They throw lots of presses at you, zone, trapping, even a few man-to-man [schemes]. In the second half last week we started trying to break the press individually, and that didn’t work as well for us. If we can get back

to breaking it as a team, we’ll be fine.”

After starting the season off consistently shooting around 30 percent from the floor, the Red hit on 50 percent of its field goals, marking its second straight game over 50 percent and fifth straight over 40 percent. Smith attributes the improved numbers to better shot selection.

“We just took smart shots,” she said. “We had a lot of layups and post feeds. If Columbia gives us that this weekend, we’ll go to that, and execute in our half court offense. But, if our press break opens up transition we’ll do that too.”

Many of the post feeds have been going into the front line trio of Scarseletta, classmate Jeomi Maduka and junior Moina Snyder. The scoring between the three has been balanced in recent weeks, opening up space for outside shooters like senior tri-captain Claire Perry and sophomore tri-captain Kayleen Fitzsimmons. Scampering around on the full court press for the Lions will be Megan Griffith, who averages more than two steals a game while putting in 13.8 points per contest.

“This is an important game to prove to the Ivy League that we are a team to beat,” Scarselletta said. “We both got one game to get a feel for the other. Now all the cards are on the table, and it’s about who knows how to play the other team better.”