November 27, 2007

Snyder’s Shooting Efficiency Leads W. Basketball to Success

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Michael Jordan, widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, missed 613 shots in his collegiate career. Senior co-captain Moina Snyder has missed only 110 shots since transferring to Cornell last year from Umpqua Community College. Maybe it’s just a fluke. Maybe Jordan attempted more shots. Or maybe Snyder is better than Jordan. Only time will tell, as the Red is off to a 2-2 start under Snyder’s efficient shooting and dominant presence in the paint.
After ranking second in school history with a .513 shooting percentage last season, Snyder began the 2007-08 campaign by draining her first eight shots from the floor and first six free throws, not missing a single shot attempt in the team’s first two contests.
“I think for Moina and her [field goal] percentage early on, it was about taking smart, high-percentage shots,” said head coach Dayna Smith. “She gets in the gym and works on her shot. We were fortunate enough to put her in good situations, and she was smart enough to take some pretty high percentage shots.”
In the season opening loss to Long Island, Snyder went 5-of-5 from the floor and 2-of-2 from the line, totaling 12 points and zero missed shots. There seems to be a simple key to success for the girl who rarely misses.
“I don’t think that forcing up shots when they’re not there is a good thing,” Snyder said. “Basketball is such a quick sport that there’s always going to be someone open. If you’re lucky enough to be that person, you should shoot a high percentage.”
In the following game against Lafayette, Snyder attempted only three field goals, sinking all of them, to go with her 4-of-4 performance from the charity stripe. Her 10 points contributed to the Red’s first win of the season, a 71-56 victory in the home opener.
“Early on, Moina was making some pretty smart decisions with the basketball,” Smith said. “One of the games she only attempted three shots, so the percentage was pretty good because of that, but the next game she was making very good, strong post moves. She’s making smart decisions as far as taking what the defense gives her.”
Snyder’s first missed shots of the season came against the nation’s No. 19 team, as she hit 5-of-11 attempts against West Virginia. The forward’s 12 points were second only to junior Kayleen Fitzsimmons’s 15, while Snyder’s six rebounds led the Red.
After ending her streak of zero missed shots against West Virginia, Snyder stumbled on the offensive end against Bucknell, going 3-of-11 and missing one of her two free throw attempts. Cornell defeated the Bison, while Snyder saw her shooting percentage drop to .533 on the season.
“I really don’t think about [stats],” Snyder said. “I don’t think stats are relevant about how someone plays. I don’t use them to judge my game. I’d rather look at a tape than a stat sheet.”
Before getting her name in the record books last year and opening this season with three consecutive double-digit scoring performances, it wasn’t always easy for the 6-1 forward from France, who struggled early upon her arrival to Ithaca.
“For Moina, it took a little while to find how to be productive and where to fit in with our style,” Smith said. “The first five, six, seven games she wasn’t really playing much, and she wasn’t producing, and then something just clicked. It was just a matter of her trying to see our style of play, see where she was needed and how she can fit in.”
Snyder found her place: the paint. She finished the 2006-07 season as the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, also adding 36 blocked shots. With her three blocks this season, Snyder is tied for ninth-place in Cornell history.
“Actually, I’m not a big fan of blocked shots,” Smith said. “Moina will be the first to tell you. I think that gives the referee the opportunity to call some fouls that we really can’t afford [Snyder] to have.”
“Coach hates it,” Snyder said of blocking shots. “It’s a good way I can use my arms. I’m lucky enough to have huge arms that don’t fit in sweatshirts, but they’re useful to block shots. But Coach hates it. I get in trouble for blocking shots. It’s not primary defense. It’s a last resort.”
While Snyder’s aggression on the defensive end has sometimes worried her coach, it is Snyder’s lack of assertion on the offensive end that leaves room for improvement in Snyder’s dynamic post-package.
“She can see the floor pretty well, but one of her biggest faults is that she looks to pass so much that she is giving up some good opportunities to shoot the ball,” Smith said. “I think last year it took her a little while to understand that she could be a scoring threat within our team and within our conference. I think she’s starting to realize that and believe in that, and our team is starting to depend on that.”
After shooting .513 last year and starting this season shooting .533, Cornell’s school record for career field-goal percentage (.512, Patti Froehlich ‘89) is within Snyder’s reach. If the senior can maintain her current level of efficiency from the floor, the only question will be whether or not she will attempt the minimum 400 field goals required to qualify for the record.
“I think Mo, as long as she maintains her scorer’s mentality, I definitely think she could do it, and I think it’s something that is attainable,” Smith said. “I’m sure if she plays as smart as she’s capable of playing she’ll be able to break that record.”
“I don’t think about it,” said Snyder, who was unaware of the record when asked about it. “That’s my policy — do whatever it takes to win the game. Our team has all these different aspects to it; if you stop someone, someone else is going to step up. That’s the same principle as having the high field goal percentage. Just find the open person, don’t be selfish with the ball, things will go great and you’ll win. That’s the policy.”