After losing three of its past four Ivy League matchups, the Cornell women’s basketball team returned home this past weekend looking to rebound against Princeton and first-place Penn. However the weekend did not go nearly as planned.
Despite a valiant effort against the Tigers on Friday night, the Red (12-9, 3-5 Ivy) was unable to come away with a much-needed league victory. Princeton defeated Cornell 58-54 behind guard Bella Alarie’s efficient 21 points on 8-11 shooting and forward Leslie Robinson’s nine-point, 12-rebound performance.
Cornell senior guard Megan LeDuc, who matched a career high of 20 points, including five shots drained from beyond the arc, led Cornell. In addition, senior forward Nia Marshall scored 14 points and collected nine rebounds in the loss.
Although both squads accounted for 39 rebounds apiece, Cornell was doomed by its shooting. The Red converted on just 23.8 percent from 3-point land and 32.3 percent from the field overall. These numbers were particularly low during the pivotal fourth quarter.
“We played a really good game for three quarters, but ultimately, the fourth quarter really hurt us,” said head coach Dayna Smith. “Despite not playing our best basketball in that quarter, we still had several opportunities to tie the game or take a lead, but we just weren’t able to finish off some of those possessions the way that we would have liked to.”
In the second night of the back-to-back, the Red was once again within reach of a win, but could not come out on top. The Quakers — undefeated in the Ivy League — were too much for the home team to handle.
Center Sydney Stipanovich led the way for Penn, notching a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Anna Ross led Penn in scoring with 15 points.
For the second game in a row, LeDuc led Cornell in scoring with 18 points on 7-9 shooting. Marshall was effective yet again, logging 39 minutes and chipping in 15 points.
Despite shooting over 50 percent on 3-point attempts, and going 20-51 from the field overall, the Quakers outrebounded the Red 40-25, including eight more offensive boards, which put Cornell in a difficult position to win.
Although Cornell is below .500 in league play, the team is still in fifth place and only two games behind fourth place Brown.
“Hopefully these tight games will drive our team heading forward,” Smith said. “It is always really tough when you lose a lot of close games, but we are now able to see all of the areas that we can improve upon.”
In order to qualify for the Ivy League tournament in its inaugural year, the Red must break into the top four in the league. While the two losses this past weekend do not help the women’s chances, the team still believes that an appearance at Penn’s Palestra in March is still very possible.
“We are definitely still in reach of making the Ivy League Tournament this year,” Smith said. “That is something that we have talked about all season, and hopefully that can keep us focused and driven throughout the long season. We are about to play every Ivy League opponent one more time, except Columbia, so we have a great opportunity ahead of us to finish in the top four of the league.”
The team will try to right the ship and get back to .500 in league play when it hosts Dartmouth this Friday night and Harvard the following evening.
“Everyone was very upset after the two losses this weekend, but we’re hoping that feeling fuels us to get wins against Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend,” LeDuc said.
In the teams’ first meeting this season, Dartmouth defeated Cornell, 84-74. The Red also lost to the Crimson 62-59 earlier this year in Cambridge.
“Our senior class has never beaten Harvard before, and we are looking to do that this weekend,” LeDuc said. “And since we lost to Dartmouth once this year, we are looking to get that loss back this weekend.”