March 6, 2009

W. Cagers Still Fighting for Position

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For the first time since 2006, the women’s basketball team may finish the season in the bottom half of the Ivy League. That year was also the first season for senior co-captains Shannan Scarselletta, a Sun columnist, and Lacey Workman, who will be making their final appearances for the Red this weekend as Cornell takes on Penn tonight and Princeton tomorrow.
A lot has changed for the women’s basketball program since Scarselletta and Workman first joined the team. After finishing in fifth place as rookies, the Red finished third in 2007 and then rewrote the school’s record books last season with the team’s first Ivy League title. This season, having lost the team’s top-4 scorers from last year, the Red will be fighting for third place –– while in position to drop as low as sixth.
Cornell’s (10-14, 6-6 Ivy) opponents, Penn (7-18, 4-7) and Princeton (11-14, 6-5), are two more of the five Ivy League teams still playing for third place. Brown has eighth place locked up, while Dartmouth (10-1) and Harvard (9-2) are battling for the league title, just a year after the pair split the crown with Cornell.
When the Quakers visited Ithaca earlier in the season, Cornell was seemingly on its way to victory with a 35-24 lead at halftime, before Penn shot lights-out in the second half. Meanwhile, Cornell lost some steam, dropping from 50 percent shooting in the first to just 39 percent in the second. Penn shot 72.7 percent from the field and 60 percent from beyond the arc to score 55 points in the second half and rally past the Red, winning 79-70.[img_assist|nid=35873|title=Levitating|desc=The Red can still take third place.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Freshman Allison Abt led the way for Cornell, scoring 17 points, then a career-high. Scarselletta added 16 points to go with a team-high five rebounds. Junior co-captain Lauren Benson had a typical night for her, playing all 40 minutes, tallying eight assists and committing only one turnover.
The Quakers were led by senior Carrie Biemer’s 27 points, nearly 10 above her Ivy League-leading 17.8 points per game. Biemer was joined by three other Quakers in double digits, including Erin Power –– who added on a game-high 13 rebounds to notch a double-double.
After tipping off at the Palestra tonight, the Red will travel to Princeton tomorrow evening, where the Tigers are quietly putting together a respectable season. Princeton, currently in sole possession of third place, is currently the best of the rest right now in a league dominated by the Green and Crimson.
In Princeton’s five conference losses, the average margin of victory was just four points per game. Four of the five losses have come at the hands of Dartmouth and Harvard. In the team’s first game against Dartmouth, Princeton forced overtime before losing by four. In the Tiger’s next tussle with the Green, the league’s top team snuck away with a one-point victory.
In the Tiger’s conference wins, their margin of victory is 16.8 points, which includes a 75-56 victory over the Red earlier this season. In that game, senior Whitney Downs led Princeton with 19 points, while the Tiger’s leading scorer on the season –– sophomore Addie Mecir –– was held to a 1-of-10 shooting performance for six points. With three players in double-digits, however, Princeton found other ways to outscore the Red.
Cornell had no players reach double-digits scoring the last time it tipped off against the Tigers. Benson’s nine points, four assists and seven turnovers were all team highs. The Red managed to turn the ball over 20 times, while forcing just nine from its opponent. Princeton also dominated the battle in the paint, outscoring the Red, 23-7, down low.
The Red has added quite a unique distinction since last playing the Tigers and Quakers, however. With last weekend’s 66-61 overtime win against Dartmouth, the Red is now the only team in the Ivy League that can boast of taking down the Ancient Eight’s Goliath. The Red also held the lead at halftime the next night against Harvard. At 6-6, just a half-game back of Princeton for third place, the Red has one final chance to prove that it belongs at the top with the Green and Crimson.