Cornell Demolishes Harvard

FAN-TAY-TASTIC
Santosh P. Bhaskarabhatla

Junior point guard Emily Tay, shown here in earlier action, tallied six points and five assists to go with three steals against Cornell, then followed with a 12-point, 10-assist night on Saturday against Columbia.

It’s a long, lonely trip up to Ithaca, N.Y., and things didn’t get much better for the Harvard women’s basketball team after the Crimson got off the bus.

Cornell dominated Harvard on the glass and made seven first-half three pointers en route to a 85-61 rout of the visiting Crimson. The 24-point loss was Harvard’s most lopsided (13-9, 5-2 Ivy) Ivy League defeat since a 95-70 loss against Brown in February 2004 and put the Crimson on the outside looking in on the Ivy title race.

“I don’t think we would say that we didn’t have it,” co-captain Lindsay Hallion said. “I would say that we didn’t give it. We didn’t do anything to match the intensity that they had. It wasn’t Harvard basketball out there. It was just bad.”

The win puts Cornell (15-6, 7-1 Ivy) in sole possession of first place going into the second round of Ivy play. The Big Red beat Harvard for the first time in four years, paced by the torrid shooting of guard Gretchen Gregg—the nation’s leading three-point shooter at 48 percent from beyond the arc—and a ferocious effort on the offensive glass. Cornell outrebounded Harvard 45-25 overall and corralled 18 offensive rebounds on the night.

“They had almost as many offensive rebounds as we had total rebounds,” junior guard Niki Finelli said. “You can’t compete with a team when you’re not putting up the stats you need to in that respect.”

Harvard never led, with Cornell starting the game on a 7-0 tear punctuated by a Gregg three-pointer. The Crimson pulled to within two at 13-11 after five quick points from Hallion, but that was the closest Harvard would get all night.

Gregg responded with an offensive rebound and another three on Cornell’s next possession—one of four treys she hit on the night—to push the lead back to five.

Every time the Crimson had an offensive flurry to get back in the game, the Big Red responded with another big three. Perimeter defense has been an issue at times for Harvard, but nowhere was it more apparent than on Friday night in Ithaca.

“Our focus going into the game was to stop the drive and get out on their three-point shooters,” Finelli said. “But they would drive and we would help recover to the drivers, and then we couldn’t get to the shooter. Or we’d focus on the shooter and give up the drive. We couldn’t put the whole defensive end together for an entire possession, and those little breakdowns really cost us.”

In the Ivy League, Cornell’s balance is perhaps matched only by Harvard’s, with the Big Red’s inside-outside combination of Gregg and bruising, athletic forward Jeomi Maduka making a tough matchup for any opponent. On Friday, Maduka went for 16 points and 11 rebounds on 6-of-11 shooting, while Gregg finished with 18 points and six boards. Point guard Lauren Benson added 15 points and seven assists for the Big Red.

Maduka scored Cornell’s first 10 points of the second half and went to the free throw line three times in the opening minutes of the first frame. A foul on Maduka by junior Liz Tyndal after a tussle for the rebound put Maduka on the line and gave Harvard its eighth team foul of the second half with 14:19 still to play.

“The rebounding is a reflection of a lot of other breakdowns we were having,” Hallion said. “We were basically getting outworked in every area by Cornell. It was a big crossroads for us, that game. And we didn’t really compete at all.”

Finelli had her finest offensive effort of the season, finishing with 20 points on 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Hallion chipped in 12 points for the Crimson, which now faces a tough second-half Ivy schedule, with four road games remaining on the conference slate.

The loss to Cornell sets up a potential Ivy title-deciding game in Lavietes Pavilion on March 1 if both teams win their other three remaining league contests.

“That game can’t come soon enough,” Finelli said. “We’re not overlooking any of the Ivy teams, because every game is like a championship game for us, but that game is about personal pride for us. We need to come out and play our game and prove to ourselves that we’re the numer one team in the league.”

—Staff writer Aidan E. Tait can be reached at atait@fas.harvard.edu.

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