January 30, 2007

W. Basketball Relies on Defense

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The fact that hard work and experience can bring success is drilled into many minds at a young age. Recently, there has been no better proof of that adage than the current success of the women’s basketball team.

After starting the season with seven losses in a row, the Red has won eight of its last 10 games and is perfect through the first four games of its Ivy League schedule for the first time in program history.

“We’ve played with more heart recently,” said junior Moina Snyder. “We’re going hard the entire game — no one takes a break.”

This team-wide philosophy is most apparent in the hard-nosed play of Cornell’s defense in the past few weeks. In its first seven games, the Red allowed 71.25 points per game. Since then, opponents have averaged a meager 56.4 points on offense.

“Our defense has improved,” Snyder said. “We’ve been working a lot on defense in practice and we’ve worked hard to keep it up. … We want to be known as a defensive team.”

Maybe no half shows Cornell’s recent improvement on the defensive end better than the first half against Columbia this past weekend. Holding the Lions to a miniscule 37 percent from the floor, Columbia managed just 28 points in the period.

In addition, the defense held Columbia scoreless during a 16-0 run midway through the half to give Cornell a lead that it would not relinquish.

“Keeping their shooting percentage low is a good reflection of our play on defense,” Snyder said. “We’re really excited about how we’ve been playing and just want to keep working hard.”

Along with her teammates, Snyder also credits the recent success — especially on defense — to the experience that team had gained from playing with each other.

“We know each other a lot better, and we are getting more used to the system. We’re getting it done the way we were taught,” Snyder said. “Just playing a lot together over winter break has made a real difference.”

“Our team defense has been strong recently,” said sophomore forward Shannan Scarselletta. “We’re helping each other and being vocal — we’re really just clicking with our rotations.”

All of this has been reflected in the Red’s statistics, as the team currently ranks among the top in Ivy League in several defensive categories. Within league games, Cornell sits fourth in scoring defense and first in scoring margin.

The team also leads the Ivy League in rebounding on the defensive end, and is second in both rebounding margin and blocked shots. In fact, the Red has outrebounded its opponents in seven of its last 10 contests, compared to only two of its first seven.

“Everyone is working hard for boards, and we don’t want to let up any good shots,” Scarselletta said. “We’re concentrating possession by possession not to let them score.”