November 12, 2007

W. Basketball Falls to Long Island

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When Long Island’s Valerie Nainima got the ball with the game tied and just a few seconds left, it might have been the storybook ending to a game that Nainima dominated. She played well all game, totaling 24 points, including the last eight scored by the Blackbirds.
“No. 13 (Nainima) was an outstanding player,” said sophomore Lauren Benson. “She hit some key shots.”
None were more important than her last shot, a jumper from the top of the key as the clock ticked down to 1 second. That shot put the Blackbirds (1-0) ahead 55-53 and ended the first game of the season for the Red (0-1).
Some first-game nerves plagued the Red, who looked like a completely different team in the second half. After completing only 10-of-35 (26.8 percent) field goals in the first half, the Red regrouped at halftime and opened the second half with a 15-5 run.
“At halftime, coach just pointed out all of the stuff we were missing on offense as far as the different options,” Benson said. “We just let the game come to us and played how we usually play in practice: a lot more controlled and we were just clicking more.”
In the second half the Red capitalized on its field goal attempts to go 13-of-22 (59.1 percent) and shot 4-for-4 from behind the 3-point line. Junior Jeomi Maduka led the team with 16 points and eight rebounds.
“Jeomi really comes through on the offensive end for us and she’s also very good defensively,” said sophomore Virginia McMunigal. “She did a really good job during the second half defending their forwards. Jeomi’s a really big offensive presence for us.”
Junior Moina Snyder did not miss a field goal (5-for-5) all game. Benson contributed from the guard position with a game-high eight assists.
“In the second half we executed on defense and offense a lot better,” McMunigal said. “We got a lot of options that we were looking for; we started knocking down shots and forcing them to make shots that they weren’t comfortable with. We did a really good job in the second half with our zone defense.”
The Red’s improved second half defense showed as Long Island made 40.9 percent of their field goal attempts in the second half (after a 58.3 percent first half). Long Island, which led by 16 points at one point in the game, allowed the Red to tie the game at 41 apiece with 9:24 remaining on the clock. Cornell took a 45-43 lead off of junior Sun columnist Shannan Scarsaletta’s two jump shots with seven minutes remaining, then led 53-47 with 1:58 left. But Nainima’s eight points over the last few minutes sealed the game for the Blackbirds, who had not won a season-opening game for 24 years.
Despite the tough loss, the Red’s much-improved play in the second half sparked optimism in some of the players.
“:I think the second half showed what we can do as a team,” Benson said. “I feel like if we work together our season can be very successful. So I think we’re just really excited to just go off from the second half and use that and improve the rest of the season.”