Claire Li/Sun Staff Photographer

Theresa Grace Mbanefo '22 leaps to grab the ball during the Cornell v. Harvard game on Feb. 19.

March 1, 2022

Women’s Basketball Falls to UPenn in Fourth Quarter

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On a dreary Wednesday night in February, Newman Arena unexpectedly came to life in the fourth quarter of a razor thin, back-and-forth contest between Women’s Basketball and the Quakers of Pennsylvania.

In a game where each team performed almost identically on paper in field goal attempts (23-22), rebounds (38-36), turnovers (13-16) and assists (13-15), there is one glaring difference on the statsheet: UPenn (12-13, 7-6) attempted 20 free throws compared to the Red’s (9-15, 4-9) eight attempts at the charity stripe. 

To make matters worse, the gulf between free throw attempts was nonexistent heading into the fourth quarter of a one-point game. In fact, trailing 51-50 at the end of the third quarter, the Red had visited the line six times compared to the Quakers’ four free throw attempts.

In a final period defined by controversial calls, 12 of the Quakers’ 19 points came at the line, while the Red posted a meager seven points with only two free throw attempts in the quarter. With this fourth quarter advantage, UPenn ultimately went home with a conference win, defeating the Red 70-57.

For the Red, junior captain Theresa Grace Mbanefo knew rebounding was the key to victory. 

“Coming into this game, our goal was to own the boards,” Mbanefo said, “and I think we fell short on that today.”

Despite posting 11 boards of her own, Mbanefo’s individual efforts in the paint were overshadowed by the Quakers’ pure willpower.

“A lot of it is effort,” Mbanefo said. “[Senior forward Kennedy Suttle] on Penn is an effort player, and she kind of destroyed us on the boards today.” 

UPenn’s Suttle posted a whopping 17 rebounds, including 11 on the glass offensively.

Coach Dayna Smith echoed what Mbanefo saw as the key to ending the night victorious. On the defensive end, Smith noted that the Quakers beat the Red at the boards, which left them with a total of 21 second-chance points compared to the Red’s 10.

“We put them on the foul line, and down here just missed way too many open looks, so it’s an ugly combination,” Smith said. “But I think the disappointment is really in the rebounding numbers, and that has been something that has plagued us throughout the season.”

Nonetheless, the Red faced one of the top three teams in the Ivy League: Yale. Cornell competed against Yale (15-10, 8-5) on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m., where the Red lost 44-62 last month. Despite a strong initial showing, the Red struggled to match Yale’s prowess in the second and third quarters, losing 40-56.

Looking ahead, the Red is in for a tough finish to the season as it faces Columbia (20-5, 11-2) on Friday, March 4.