Coming off of its first win in four weeks, the Red (9-3, 2-7 Ivy) was ready to take on two tough conference opponents: Princeton (16-5, 7-2 Ivy) and Penn (14-8, 6-3 Ivy).
“[Princeton] likes to play fast and penetrate so we wanted to slow down their offense,” said head coach Dayna Smith.
The strategy against Penn was similar.
“They’re also a team that likes to run and we tried to do a similar scheme as far as our transition defense,” Smith said.
First against the Red was Princeton. The Tigers was able to pull ahead quickly in the first quarter, hitting multiple three-point shots.
In the second quarter the Red came back with fierce defense, grabbing multiple boards and converting a fastbreak by junior guard Mia Beam. The Red ended the half down, 33-25.
“We settled in after the first quarter and we were reversing the ball,” Smith said. “We were making the extra pass, we were utilizing the shot clock, and we were penetrating with a purpose. […] We made some good adjustments and our players responded to that.”
Going into the second half, Cornell remained competitive until the five minute mark, where Princeton was able to score five unanswered points, widening its lead to ten.
The third quarter ended with a layup scored by the Tigers, increasing its lead to 52-40.
The Red tried to come back from its deficits from the first three quarters, with three fastbreaks and multiple layups, but it could not overcome Princeton’s defense.
The game ended in a loss for the Red, 63-52.
After a tough Friday game, Cornell had to bounce back and go head-to-head with Penn Saturday afternoon.
“Coach Smith does a really good job focusing on both games throughout the practices and we feel prepared going into the Friday game,” said senior guard Shannon Mulroy. “Then on Saturday we have a shoot around to make sure we get extra prep [against Penn].”
Cornell started strong in the first quarter with a three-pointer from sophomore forward Summer Parker-Hall, but Penn quickly picked up the speed.
The Quakers had a 66.67 percent accuracy on 3-pointers in the first half, building an early lead on the Red. The quarter ended with Cornell trailing, 22-13.
The Red struggled in the first quarter against both Princeton and Penn.
“We want to start the game fast and sometimes we have been able to in a couple of the Ivy games, but I have been really happy with [the second quarter] adjustments when we don’t start fast,” Smith said.
Cornell brought back some intensity in the second quarter, matching the 13 points Penn scored. The Red was able to capitalize on a fastbreak, scored by freshman forward Ruby Grace Williams.
However, this wasn’t enough to give Cornell the lead and it went into the locker room trailing, 35-26.
“[At the half] we switched up our defense,” Mulroy said. “We started with a 3-2 defense and they were exposing us a little bit at the corners so we switched to man-to-man.”
Despite these adjustments, the Red couldn’t shut down Penn’s fastbreak, with the Quakers scoring eight points in the third quarter off of transition plays alone.
“You name it, everything kind of fell apart in that third quarter,” Smith said.
Penn put up 21 points in the third quarter, increasing the gap to 56-32.
Cornell came back slightly in the fourth quarter, putting up 22 points in response to Penn’s 11.
The team was able to capitalize on three fastbreaks and communication increased in the fourth.
“We played with an intensity about ourselves, especially on the defensive end and that leads to offense and we did that in the fourth quarter,” Smith said. “I was happy and proud that we bounced back.”
Despite a good fourth quarter, the Red could not combat Penn’s decisive lead and lost the game, 67-54.
“We play well in segments and we just haven’t had enough good, 40-minute games where we’re really doing what we’re capable of doing […] until we get to that point we’re going to lose those types of games,” Smith said.
The Red will tip off against Brown this Saturday, Feb. 11 in Newman Arena at 2 p.m.