February 26, 2007

W. Cagers Sweep Weekend Contests

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Like a young Forest Gump, the women’s basketball team started running and just never stopped this weekend. Friday night, the Red raced acrobatically up and down the court against Yale on its way to 59-55 victory. On Saturday night, Cornell kept its momentum going, winning a sloppy, defensive battle, 41-36, over Brown.

The triumph over the Bulldogs (11-15, 4-8 Ivy) avenged an earlier loss this season. This time, the Red (12-13, 8-4) was determined to show its true pugnacity and aggressiveness going into the matchup, and accomplished just that right off the bat largely due to sophomore Jeomi Maduka. Maduka pushed the tempo, controlling the boards and then taking the ball upcourt herself. Several times she either went coast-to-coast, or drew a defender before dishing it off to a teammate. Maduka finished with a team-high 14 points and nine rebounds.

“We were trying to push the tempo because we had done a good job of that in the first game [against Yale],” said head coach Dayna Smith. “We thought we could run their forwards a little, but they did a good job because there guards are pretty quick. They like to get out and run, and at times, they had four or five guards on the court, so they were able to get us back.”

Oftentimes, though, the Bulldogs had a guard-heavy lineup because of their forwards, most notably Erica Davis, quickly got themselves in foul trouble. Davis was an imposing presence in the first game against the Red, scoring 25 points, pulling down 13 boards, and swatting away nine shots. Friday night, although effective when on the court, Davis was limited to 19 minutes, fouling out with 3:11 to go.

“We really focused on trying to pull her [Davis] out and make her play perimeter defense … using things like on-ball screens and drives,” Smith said. “We did a good job of trying to make her play defense not just on the block, but on the perimeter as well.”

Defensively, Smith challenged the forwards to keep Davis off her position on the low post.

“Our forwards did a fantastic job,” she said. “We really challenged them this week in practice we did a lot preparing for that. It was tough, but [sophomore sun columnist] Shannan [Scarselletta], Jeomi and [junior] Megan [Hughes] did a good job driving her out of the lane. [Junior] Moina Snyder did a good job with the trap against her too when she got the ball.”

The game became very physical as the second half progressed, with Cornell occasionally setting up a press to keep the guard-laden Yale squad off balance, and slow the Bulldogs’ transition game which beat the Red defenders down the court a few times.

In such a fast-paced game, however, it proved to be Scarselletta who carried the team down the stretch, knocking down seven clutch free throws, hitting an uncharacteristic long jumper, lobbing in a pass to Jeomi for a bucket and pulling down several key rebounds. When the dust cleared, Scarselletta had recorded 13 points and 11 rebounds, mostly in the last seven minutes of the ball game.

“Shannan played great,” Smith said. “She was disappointed in her performance in the first game [against Yale] took it as a personal challenge to be more focused.”

The game ended in a flurry of fouls, infuriating Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht. As both teams continued to trot to the line with the clock winding down, the coach turned her anger on a heckler in the audience. It was to no avail, however, as the Red came away with the win.

With the Yale game behind them, the players prepared for Senior Night and a scrappy Brown team (5-21, 3-9). Junior Lindsay Krasna started the evening off by signing the national anthem.

“I think she sang it for [senior tri-captain] Claire [Perry],” Smith said.

With Perry, the only senior on the team, nursing a knee injury, she still started the game and put in the first five points for the Red, her only points and field goal attempts of the evening in 13 minutes of playing time.

“She’s pretty gutsy,” Smith said. “She wanted to play, and I didn’t know what to expect from her … those first five points, you got to love it. You got to love her being able to step in and hit that 3.”

The Red’s quick start would not mirror the rest of the game, though. Both teams floundered on offense.

“They’re matchup zone wasn’t really a matchup zone,” Snyder said. “I think the fact that they were supposed to play it, and they didn’t, confused us. Sometimes we were looking to pass too much and were giving up some open shots.”

“Our guards had some open looks early that we missed and then we started to force some things,” Smith said. “Inside, our forwards didn’t use a whole lot of power when they went up with their shots and didn’t finish. We seemed out of synch. … Brown’s a scrappy team and they mix up their defenses quite a bit and I think that got in our head.”

Still, the Red’s offensive futility — the score going into half time was 25-22 in Brown’s favor — was countered by its defense and the tempo the team set.

“I guess at halftime our goal was to pick it up on defense and make it hard for them,” Snyder said. “Attacking them got them really tired. They were a really physical team, but our goal was to really run the fast beak, and get them tired. Our transition game has been really good recently.”

With Brown coming off a double-overtime game the night before, the team appeared to tire out, getting drawn into foul trouble when not able to keep up with Cornell’s pace.

“They got a lot of fouls because we were attacking so much,” Snyder said.

The second half played even shoddier than the first, with shots going everywhere but the bottom of the net. Brown sank a miniscule 16.7 percent of its field goals and put up only 11 points. Cornell, shooting at only a 29.6 percent clip, mustered 19 points to put itself up by four late in the game. A four-point lead in this match felt nearly insurmountable, though, and a 3-pointer that would have brought the Bears within a point ended in fitting fashion, a block by freshman Allie Fedorowicz.

“It probably was not the most fun game to watch, but a win is a win and when we look back on our season, it won’t be a win with an asterisk,” Smith said.

Fittingly, the victory — which tied the Cornell women’s basketball record for most Ivy wins in a season — ended with the ball in Perry’s hand.

“Coach asked me if I wanted to go in and I was like ‘yeah,’” Perry said. “I went to the scorers table and they were all going, ‘good luck,’ ‘way to go.’ I guess a lot of thoughts were running through my head, ‘I can’t believe it,’ but mainly ‘just go out there and don’t get hurt.’”