February 13, 2009

Women’s Basketball Hits the Road Against Ancient Eight’s Top-2 Teams

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In two losses over the past weekend, the Red’s opponents shot 49 percent and 59 percent from the field. After watching the Tigers and Quakers hit every shot imaginable last weekend, it only gets harder this weekend as the Red will face the Ivy League’s top two teams.
[img_assist|nid=35081|title=No crab dribble|desc=Junior guard Lauren Benson (23) will need to be at the top of her game against Dartmouth’s league-leading defense.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Cornell will get the weekend started with Harvard — the league’s top in-conference shooting team at 42.6 percent — tonight in Cambridge, before tomorrow’s highly-anticipated rematch of last year’s Ivy League playoff game with currently undefeated Dartmouth — the leagues best in-conference 3-point shooting team at 41 percent.
In a reversal of last year’s trend, Cornell (7-11, 3-3 Ivy) has started its conference schedule with a better record on the road than at home. This may be a good sign for a team that was unable to get a win in last year’s weekend trip to Harvard (12-7, 4-1 Ivy) and Dartmouth (10-9, 5-0 Ivy).
Last season, the Red lost both games on the road by a combined five points, at a time when a win would have translated to the Ivy League championship. This year, a win would signal to the league that Cornell isn’t out of the running yet, while also giving it the opportunity to get back into the top half of the league.
But it won’t be that easy. Harvard and Dartmouth represent two goliaths. The two teams have only one conference loss between them — Harvard’s 59-55 loss to Dartmouth.
Harvard boasts the Ancient Eight’s best offense, leading the league in shooting and scoring with 70 points per game against Ivy foes — compared to Cornell’s 59.8. Dartmouth dominates the other end of the court against the Ancient Eight, leading the league with only 46 points allowed per game.
Harvard winning with offense and Dartmouth winning with defense is nothing new. The traveling partners also had the leagues best scoring offense and defense last year. Cornell struck the perfect balance in 2007-08 to rank second in both categories — good enough to tie the Crimson and Green in a three-way split of the Ivy League title. But in 2008-09, Dartmouth and Harvard didn’t lose their top-4 scorers from last year. The Red did.
Dartmouth and Harvard are ranked first and second in scoring margin thus far at plus-13 and plus-9.2 points a game — Cornell has managed to outscore opponents by an average of .2 points a game en route to a .500 record so far.
Both teams also lead the league in 3-point field goal percentage, hitting over 40 percent from long range. Cornell led the league in this category last year by connecting 39 percent of the time, but is now relegated to third behind their upcoming opponents.
Last year at this point, the Red was 5-1, in a three-way tie for first place with the Crimson and the Green. Cornell then swept its games against both these teams, setting the tone for the championship run to follow. This year, at 3-3 and in fifth place, this weekend has the potential to determine how the rest of the season will play out for the Red.