November 16, 2007

W. B-ball Gets First Win, Perpares for Quick Turnaround

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After both teams opened last night’s game with two and a half scoreless minutes, a 3-point
field goal from senior tri-captain Gretchen Gregg put Cornell up 3-0 in its home-opener against Lafayette (1-1). The Red (1-1) held the lead for the remainder of the game, earning its first win of the year and fourth home-opening victory in six seasons for head coach Dayna Smith.
Coming off of Saturday’s loss to Long Island, the Red got out to an early 11-4 lead on the strength of 3s from Gregg, sophomore Lauren Benson and junior Kayleen Fitzsimmons, along with a 2-point hoop from Fitzsimmons.
Fitzimmons and Benson led the Red with 15 points apiece, while junior Jeomi Maduka and senior tri-captain Moina Snyder added 12 and 10 points, respectively. With her 3-3 performance from the floor and 4-4 mark from behind the charity stripe, Snyder has yet to miss a shot this season.
The Leopards’ offense resettled after a timeout with 13:19 left in the first half to score eight points over the next minute and thirty seconds. Countering Lafayette’s offensive surge was junior forward and Sun columnist Shannon Scarselletta, who scored all six Cornell points over that same span.
The Red defense would only allow nine more points in the first half, six from freshman forward LaKeisha Wright and three from senior Vanessa Van De Venter. Offensively, Cornell added 20 points to head into the locker rooms with a 37-21 cushion at the half.
The second half was a different story for the Red. After heading into halftime with a 16-point lead, Cornell found itself ahead by only nine after Lafayette pieced together a 17-8 run in the first seven minutes of the half. The nine-point margin was the first single-digit lead for the Red since 5:42 left to play in the first.
The Red’s lead continued to diminish until Lafayette pulled to within five with 3:53 left in the game. With the score at 59-54 and the Leopards threatening, Cornell regrouped to finish the game with a 12-2 run, including hitting nine-of-10 free-throw attempts in the final three minutes.
The Red escaped with a victory after giving up 35 points to the Leopards in the second half, while only totaling 34 on offense.
“That’s two games in a row now that we haven’t been coming out and playing for 40 minutes,” Smith said.
Cornell was slowed in the second half by mental errors and breakdowns on offense, starting the half with turnovers on the first five possessions. The Red ended the game with 23 turnovers compared to Lafayette’s 16.
“We played a lot better in the first half than in the second half,” Maduka said. “Turnovers are something we talked about at halftime; something that we knew we had to improve on, but we didn’t.
The Red will have another chance to gain better control of the ball when it faces the nation’s 18th-ranked team this Sunday. The women cagers will be traveling to West Virginia to face the Mountaineers (1-0) for the first time in school history, a year after West Virginia’s first round upset of Xavier in last year’s NCAA tournament.
West Virginia will likely be the toughest team the Red will face in the regular season. The Mountaineers have a 33-1 record at home in non-conference games under head coach Mike Carey, and already have an impressive 76-49 victory over Canisius this season.
“They’re 18th in the country, so we’re just gonna prepare ourselves and work on some things we didn’t do too well tonight,” said Smith. “They’re big, strong and athletic. We’re gonna have to play team defense. We don’t really match up with them individually, but as a team we can do a lot of things”
While Cornell had five players with starting experience entering the 2007-08 season, West Virginia has six. All five of last year’s starters return, along with senior Meg Bulger who sat out last season with a knee injury. Bulger led the team in scoring with 19.8 points per game in 2005-06, and came off the bench to score 15 points in 18 minutes in the opener against Canisius.
The Mountaineer’s leading scorer from last year is senior center Olayinka Sanni, who paced the mountaineers with a double-double — 16 points and 10 rebounds — against Canisius. West Virginia also boasts senior forward Chakhia Cole down-low, one of only two Big East players in the conference’s history to record a 300 point, 200 rebound and 100 assist season.
Cole has now done it twice.
The only common opponent of the Red and the Mountaineers last season was Syracuse. Both teams traveled to the Carrier Dome, but only West Virginia left with a win. The Mountaineers have won 14 of the last 15 games at the WVU Coliseum. The Red hopes to make that 14 out of 16.
“We’ve been talking about it already,” Maduka said. “We’re really excited, and we’re planning on winning.”