January 28, 2008

W. Basketball Fails to Sweep

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Expectations for this weekend might have been set too high following last Saturday’s 73-57 win over Columbia. The Red failed to complete the season sweep over the Lions and snapped their five-game winning streak against Columbia with a rough 59-76 loss on Saturday in Columbia’s Levien Gymnasium.
The Lions (4-12, 1-1 Ivy) altered their defensive pattern from last week’s 1-3-1 package to a man-to-man scheme that stifled the Red (9-6, 1-1) offense for most of the night.
“They played more man-to-man defense than they did last game which worked pretty well in their favor,” said head coach Dayna Smith. “They played very good defense against us.”
Part of the Red’s offensive struggles stemmed from the fact that junior forward Jeomi Maduka, last week’s Ivy League Player of the Week and Cornell’s leading scorer, wasn’t able to replicate her performance from last weekend’s game against Columbia. Maduka ran into foul trouble early and played only 19 minutes in the contest, collecting nine points and seven rebounds.
“We just didn’t play as good defense on the one forward [Columbia’s sophomore Chelsea Frazier, who scored 22 points] as we did last Saturday,” Maduka said. “They got a lot of open layups and a lot of our forwards got into foul trouble early, so I was limited [in minutes].”
Sophomore guard Virginia McMunigal was one bright spot for the Red. McMunigal played one of the best games of her collegiate career with 14 points, seven rebounds and three steals — all career highs — in 26 minutes of action.
“[McMunigal] kind of got us back in it,” Smith said. “We cut [the lead] to four right before the half and she was pretty much our offense. We did a nice job finding her but she was the only person who was consistently knocking shots down.”
McMunigal shot five-for-14 from the field and three-for-six from behind the 3-point line. As a team, Cornell shot only 33.3 percent, dramatically worse than its average for the season — 41.6 percent.
“We were taking great shots but we were just missing. It was one of those 10-minute spans where we just couldn’t hit a shot,” Smith said. “I thought we were set up, we weren’t forcing things, we were just missing. We settled down and started hitting a couple but they took away our transition. I thought our interior game wasn’t where it normally is, we didn’t have as many post scorers as we like to have and you have to give Columbia credit for that.”
In addition to thwarting the Red offense, the Lions got off to a very fast start and rode hot performances from Frazier, sophomore guard Danielle Brown (13 points) and senior guard Michelle Gage (11 points). Columbia had a 20-3 lead early in the game, aided by Frazier’s 14 points that came within the first eight minutes of play.
“I thought we executed the game plan as well as we could have in the first 10 minutes,” Columbia head coach Paul Nixon told the Columbia Athletics Department after the game. “Last week, we played to Cornell’s style of basketball. During practice this week, we talked about playing an up-and-down affair. Cornell is a very solid half-court defensive team. This game, we got back to playing Columbia basketball.”
In an attempt to thwart “Columbia basketball,” the Red switched to a full-court press towards the end of the game. It proved effective, but the Red offense was unable to generate enough points to overcome the deficit.
“We do it here and there,” Smith said of the full-court press. “I think it’s effective but we like to run on offense and we have to be very deep in order to press and run. … It was effective but it was a little too late. It was a pretty disappointing evening and pretty uncharacteristic of what we’ve been like this season so we weren’t very happy with that effort.”