Cornell women can’t handle Penn defense in 67-46 loss

ITHACA – The Penn defense was too much to handle for Cornell women’s basketball Friday night at Newman Arena.

The Big Red fell, 67-46, to the Quakers, their ninth loss in the last 10 games.

“They denied passing lanes, our ballhandlers, our guards [and] our perimeter play was really hesitant and passive,” said Cornell coach Dayna Smith. “They put the press on because they were scoring. That really negated a lot of things.”

Cornell (10-15, 3-10 Ivy) came out sloppy, turning the ball over six times in the first five minutes of the game. That led to Penn (19-7, 9-4 taking a quick 8-3 lead after a Kayla Padilla three-point jumper.

The Quakers would never look back. They took a 20-9 led at the end of the first quarter and held a 15-point lead at the half.

“They played a lot more aggressive than us,” said Smith. “They have size on us; they cut harder than us. You have to tip your hat to them, they really came out and wanted to win that game. It was important to them. We wanted to win, but we didn’t execute and do the things that we needed to.”

Penn just tacked onto its lead in the third quarter, leading by 25 with 10 minutes to play. The visitors led by as many as 30 in the fourth quarter, but the Cornell bench got it down to 21 once the final horn sounded.

The Quakers were extremely balanced all game. Padilla and Eleah Parker each had 16 to pace the victors. The other trio of starters each had nine, that being Phoebe Sterba, Kennedy Suttle and Kendall Grasela. Suttle added seven rebounds while Grasela dished out nine assists.

“They are balanced. They’re a good team. That’s why they are top of the league,” said Smith.

For Cornell, nobody scored more than six. Theresa Grace Mbanefo, Shannon Mulroy, Samantha Widmann and Samantha Will all did so for the Big Red. Laura Bagwell-Katalinich scored just two points in 18 minutes.

The Big Red turned the ball over 24 times in the game and fouled 19 times.

“Our composure was just not there,” said Smith. “We didn’t have that response or answer when Penn went on a little run early, which we’ve been doing. Just thought we took a step backwards.”

Tomorrow, Cornell will host 25-1 No. 21 Princeton.

“Our opponent is tremendous,” said Smith. “It’s going to be an unbelievable challenge, but I really want our seniors to get the respect. I want our underclassmen to play hard for them. They deserve that.”

Penn will look to hold onto the No. 2 seed in the Ivy League Tournament when it faces off against Columbia in Morningside Heights.