Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

The Red's most decisive victory so far this season was by a 24-point margin.

November 18, 2019

Strong Defense Helps Women’s Basketball Dominate NJIT

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Hungry to bring its record back to .500, Cornell women’s basketball took on the New Jersey Institute of Technology at Newman Arena. The final tally was 68-44 in the Red’s favor.

Entering the contest, the Red’s record was 1-2, and it was coming off two losses on the road to TCU and Colgate. NJIT had been faring even worse, with a 0-5 mark.

Right out of the gate in the first quarter, the Red played aggressively. Senior guard/forward and team captain Samantha Widmann was a key contributor alongside fellow senior forward Stephanie Umeh.

Junior guard Kate Sramac, freshman guard Shannon Mulroy and senior forward Laura Bagwell-Katalinich also contributed to the Red taking an early lead, finishing the first quarter at 17-10.

In the second quarter, Cornell did not back down — in fact, the Red fought harder, eventually widening the gap in the score to 43-23, an impressive 20-point lead going into the second half.

A key player for the Red was sophomore forward Theresa Grace Mbanefo. She played a great defensive game with three rebounds and blocked NJIT from several shots. Mbanefo also managed a turnover for Cornell as well as two good layups. She assisted Widmann in another layup and separately tallied two free throw points for the Red.

“It was super exciting — the whole team was really focused on getting this win after our loss to Colgate,” Mbanefo said. “Our bench had so much energy, it helped me a lot.”

That Colgate defeat was Cornell’s narrowest of the season — the Raiders claimed the win by a four-point margin.

Head coach Dayna Smith also was very pleased with the team’s performance.

“The defense led us in this game, they were our go-to, creating steals and turnovers. We made a huge improvement here from the game against Colgate,” Smith said.

Throughout the tilt, the team maintained a high intensity and kept its 20-plus point lead up to the end.

“I was very happy with how the bench came in and had 38 points. They actually exceeded the starting group,” Smith said. “We had second and third options in the second half.”

This strong performance from both groups of players in the second half led the Red to the sweeping 68-44 victory over NJIT. The key players from the first half continued to serve the team well in the second part of the game to carry the Red to its second win of the season.

Sophomore guard Samantha Will also came in and made great contributions to the win, including an exciting jump shot basket early in the fourth.

Up next for the Red is its third home game in a row facing Niagara University. Ivy games will not commence for Cornell until after winter break.

“We are challenging ourselves with games outside of our conference,” Smith said.

The Red will go for two wins in a row Thursday at 7 p.m. to bring the team to a 3-2 record.