After a close loss to Duquesne in its season opener Friday night, the women’s basketball team celebrated an 81-54 victory over Ithaca College on Sunday in Newman Arena. Thanks in large part to an aggressive Cornell offense, the Red was able to keep its lead over the Bombers throughout the entire game.
Senior guard Virginia McMunigal started off the game with three quick baskets, pushing the Red (1-1) ahead of nearby rival Ithaca College (0-1) early in the first half. McMunigal led the team with 13 points in the first half (and a game total of 15 points), scoring on the buzzer to give the Red a 37-25 lead before halftime.
Following an Ithaca timeout halfway through the first half, the Bombers ramped up their offense significantly. Ithaca’s two leading scorers, sophomore guard Jessica Farley and senior guard Lindsay Brown, contributed six and seven points respectively in the first half, fighting to catch up to Cornell.
But it was not enough to get ahead of the Red. With eight minutes remaining before halftime, freshman Clare Fitzpatrick nailed a pair of free throws, upping Cornell’s lead to 22-7, and McMunigal topped it off with a 3-pointer on the next possession.
Head Coach Dayna Smith was very pleased with the win.
“[Cornell] was a little sluggish coming on,” Smith said. “But we got it together and overall we played well.”
Following her 13-point contribution in Friday’s game, Cornell’s senior guard Lauren Benson upheld her point-scoring reputation, earning the Red nine points against the Bombers. Freshmen forward Kristina Danielak also contributed considerably to Cornell’s offensive prowess, earning a career-high of 11 points on Sunday.
“We felt good about the game on Friday,” Danielak said. “It gave us a little bit of motivation [for Sunday’s game].”
The six freshmen certainly lived up to Division I standards on Sunday. Fitzpatrick earned nine points for the Red while freshman lay-up queen Spencer Lane earned six. And Taylor Flynn racked up eight points for the Red in her second Cornell game.
Smith, acknowledging the relatively young team, commented on how the freshmen were adjusting to their first exposure to collegiate basketball. “They’re handling the nerves of the game well,” Smith said. “They settled down and did their job.”
Their job was to maintain Cornell’s hold over Ithaca and, like Smith said, they certainly did so. Freshman guard Caitlin Costello and forward Whitney Hagan accompanied Flynn, Danielak and Lane on the court, and the Red’s lead grew in the last three minutes of the game as the all-freshman lineup scored the final 17 points for Cornell. The game ended in a triumphant 81-54 victory.
Both Smith and senior McMunigal expressed confidence in the team for their upcoming games.
“We have a lot of potential and I like our attitudes,” Smith said. “The girls listen and learn and want to get better, and I think we’ll continue to improve.”
The team hopes to for another victory this Friday when it will play DePaul University in the DePaul Classic in Chicago.
“I feel good going into the season,” McMunigal said. “We’ve really come together as a team. We have a tough schedule ahead of us, but I think we’ll do well.”