After three consecutive home wins to begin the season, the Red will look to extend its streak when the team hosts Drexel (3-2) on Saturday.
Cornell has not won its first four home games since the 2003-2004 season.
“We feel that we need to defend our home court and use that advantage to its full potential,” said senior forward Nicholle Aston. “We know the space and are confident here the most.”
In six previous meetings all-time, Cornell (5-2) has never defeated the Dragons, with the last game between the two resulting in a 62-53 Drexel win in 2014.
“This game is our biggest test thus far,” Aston said. “Drexel has had a strong start to their season and is one of the top mid-major schools. To be able to go into finals with another win under our belt would be fantastic, and a win over Drexel, especially, would further prove our abilities on the court.”
Cornell is coming off of a win against St. Francis, in which the team held the fourth most potent offense in the NCAA to 20 points below its season average.
After struggling defensively earlier in the year, Cornell — with five senior starters — drastically improved on the defensive end recently, focusing on this facet of the game much more during practice.
“Earlier in the year, we were letting our opponents blow by us, but now we are getting better at not letting that happen,” said senior guard Taylor DePalma. “If it does, our communication on the defensive end has gotten better.”
Another area in which the Red has matured in its past few games has been in starting each contest strong and not letting the opponent get out to a large lead in the first quarter.
“We have talked extensively about this issue, because we know that we have to put together four well-executed quarters in order to win these games, and to have a good season down the road,” DePalma said. “We are now understanding that you can’t take any time off, and that we have to match the opponent’s intensity the entire game.”
After one quarter against the Red Flash, Cornell led 22-5, but the Red had to withstand a 34-point fourth quarter by St. Francis to hold on to win its second road game of the year.
“Our team realizes that if they work hard, and are focused early, that will kind of set the tone for the remainder of the game,” said head coach Dayna Smith.
Last season, Drexel finished third in the CAA and returns three starters from last year’s team. Seniors Sarah Curran and Jessica Pellechio lead the Dragons in scoring with averages of 16.8 and 14.8 points per game, respectively.
Drexel, similarly to Cornell, has won all three of its home games thus far, but has not won away from Philadelphia yet this season. Its most significant victory in the first month of the year was an upset against nationally ranked Syracuse, when senior sharpshooter Meghan Creighton made seven three pointers — including the game-winner — with nine seconds remaining.
“Drexel is a very talented, smart and well-coached team,” Smith said. “This game is definitely our toughest challenge so far this season.
The Red must rely on its defense to suppress Drexel’s offense.
“We are hoping that we can use our defensive intensity to help fuel us on the offensive end,” Smith explained.
After the matchup with Drexel, the Red will have two weeks off, due to the University-wide two-week study period. The Red plays its next game on the road when the team travels to Youngstown State on Dec. 17.
“Win or lose, we are going to take a lot from this game, as well as the first seven games, and build off of that during the two weeks off,” Smith said.