The Cornell women’s basketball team couldn’t extend its four-game winning streak against the unbeaten Binghamton Bearcats at Newman Arena Thursday, losing, 59-56.
The Big Red (5-3) controlled the first half, leading 12-9 after the first quarter and 29-23 at the break. Senior Bearcat guard Kai Moon, who has the third-highest scoring average in the country, was held to just three points at the half. Her points came on a deep three as the halftime horn sounded.
In the second half, the Bearcats (9-0) came out a lot quicker and stronger, taking a one-point lead with 10 minutes remaining.
“They changed their effort,” Cornell coach Dayna Smith said of Binghamton in the second half.
Moon once again hit a deep three as time expired to end the quarter.
“She hits two big shots to end quarters. Those are daggers,” Smith said. “[We’re] disappointed. We knew exactly the type of shot she knows how to take, and she makes them. They’re deep, they’re stepbacks, and it’s the exact same shot we’ve seen on film over and over.”
Binghamton started the fourth quarter off strong, taking a nine-point lead with under five minutes to play. But Shannon Mulroy drilled a three, and Kate Sramac and Theresa Grace Mbanefo hit layups to quickly cut it to two.
The next few minutes were back and forth, but the Big Red tied it with free throws from Laura Bagwell-Katalinich with 31 ticks left. Moon responded on the other end, cutting to the hoop then stepping back hard, swishing it just inside the three-point line.
Bagwell-Katalinich stepped out of bounds under the Cornell basket, and the Big Red had trouble fouling but finally did with 1.2 seconds left. Moon split the two free throws, and the final horn sounded before the Big Red could get off a final shot.
Bagwell-Katalinich led Cornell with 23 points and 16 rebounds. Samantha Widmann contributed 12 points and eight rebounds. Mulroy added eight points with a pair of steals.
“They were making us uncomfortable, and [us] having to look at our plan B and plan C, we didn’t do that as well as we normally do,” Bagwell-Katalinich said. “If my teammates necessarily weren’t hitting, all I can do is get under the basket and see if I can clean up some boards.”
The Big Red controlled the rebounding game as usual, outrebounding Binghamton, 48-30. Half of those rebounds were offensive rebounds.
“We gotta make layups. We missed a ton of layups and foul shots,” Smith said.
“If we shoot 75% from the line, we put ourselves in position to win the game,” said Bagwell-Katalinich, who shot 9-for-10 from the free throw line and ranks second in the Ivy League in free throw percentage (behind Princeton’s Taylor Baur) after leading the conference last season.
Cornell shot 34% on the night, weighed down by 20% shooting in the third quarter. The Bearcats shot 39%, actually not bad after they shot 3-for-17 (17.6%) from the field in the first quarter.
The Big Red also dealt with some foul trouble throughout the evening. Sramac fouled out and Widmann finished with four fouls. The team only got seven bench points, compared to 16 for the Bearcats.
Moon was held to 15 points, well below her season average of 23.2. Carly Boland and Karlee Krchnavi each were in double-figures for the winners.
Next up, the Big Red host the Duquesne Dukes on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Duquesne is 6-2 and will play Toledo before the Cornell contest. The game will be live on ESPN+.