While the start of the spring semester may signify a return to the “same-old” for many students, that will not be the case for Cornell women’s basketball as the Red ushers in the start of Ivy play.
Opening conference play with two straight wins over Columbia, Cornell will look to stay undefeated on the road against Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend.
“I think every win makes us hungrier to get another win,” said senior guard Megan LeDuc. “After seeing the potential our team has, as well as the competition in the league, we believe that we can really make a run at the Ivy League tournament, which makes us want to keep working hard.”
Currently in the middle of one of the most successful seasons since the 2007-08 Ivy champion season, the Red has amassed an impressive 11-4 record, including a current four-game winning streak. One of the keys to the team’s success has been a balanced offensive attack in which head coach Dayna Smith consistently uses 10 to 12-man rotations.
One has to look no further than the most recent game against Columbia to see the Red’s deep bench on display. Aside from the five starters, five players on the bench each played significant minutes.
“Having a lot of people in the scoring mix makes us difficult to scout,” said senior Nicholle Aston. “If we keep having a balanced offensive attack, it will be hard to stop us. As for me, I’ll keep looking for my shot and take it when it is a good option for the team.”
With seven players scoring in both of the past two wins against Columbia, Cornell will certainly look to continue a balanced offensive approach in the upcoming games against Harvard and Dartmouth. In addition to providing several offensive options for the team on any given night, this approach allows the Red to avoid a common problem among the many top-heavy teams in the league; a poor shooting night for one or two star players may spell impending disaster.
“We have been working really well together as a team,” LeDuc said. “Most teams focus on keying in on one particular scorer and since we have so many potential scorers, it’s hard for teams to key in on everyone, which makes it easier for me to score. I think as long as we keep playing as a team and getting the ball to the people [who] are hot on a given day, we will keep being successful.”
Heading into the Harvard and Dartmouth games over the weekend, the team says it will hone in on its rebounding disadvantage. As a team where only a single one of the starters is taller than six feet, the Red’s glaring lack of height has been a season-long disadvantage. In contrast, over half of both the Harvard and Dartmouth rosters consist of players which stand over the six-foot threshold.
“We’ve been focusing on rebounding the entire season because it is one of our weaknesses [and] plan [to continue] focusing on that as Harvard and Dartmouth are both taller teams,” LeDuc said.
Another season-long struggle for the Red has been free-throw shooting. Despite averaging an impressive 17.8 attempts from the charity stripe, the team is only converting on 66 percent of its attempts. However, Cornell has notably improved free throw shooting recently, including going 27-35 in the previous two Ivy League wins against Columbia.
“[Along with rebounding], we have also been focusing on knocking down free throws because it has been a problem for us in the past, but has improved over the past few games,” LeDuc said.
Cornell is scheduled to play Harvard this Friday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. and Dartmouth this Saturday, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m.