ITHACA, N.Y. — Cornell junior guard Shannon Mulroy sunk a deep three-pointer over multiple defenders at the buzzer downing the Albany Great Danes, 47-46, Wednesday for Cornell’s third victory of the season.
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“So happy for them,” coach Dayna Smith said. “It wasn’t our best performance on the offensive end … I love the grit that they showed.”
Albany (1-2) opened the game on an 11-0 run, but Cornell (3-3) responded with an 11-0 run of its own sparked by senior forward Theresa Grace Mbanefo more than four minutes into the game. Mbanefo scored 12 points off 6-for-15 shooting with nine rebounds.
“Getting those inside shots when they collapses on us, looking for kick-outs, is really important,” Mbanefo said. “I really focus on that, making my bunnies, and hopefully I can continue to do that.”
The Big Red trailed 19-15 at the end of the first quarter but limited the Great Danes to just five points in the second quarter to take a 26-24 lead at the break.
“We just really buckled down,” Smith said. “We played really good zone. The press was great, [and] we turned them over a lot … We just played team basketball.”
Much like the third quarter, Albany opened on a scoring run, as the Great Danes held the Big Red scoreless for more than six minutes. But Cornell took a two-point lead into the fourth quarter after Olivia Snyder scored two of her 14 points with just one second remaining.
“She has an athleticism to her where she can elevate,” Smith said of Snyder. “We had to put the ball in Olivia’s hands a couple of times in big possessions, and she really did some nice things with it.”
Mbanefo put Cornell ahead 44-43 on a contested layup with 3:17 left in the game, but Cornell couldn’t pull away. Three late turnovers gave the Great Danes multiple late opportunities, and with nine seconds left, junior forward Helene Haegerstrand splashed her fourth three-pointer of the game to push Albany ahead.
Smith called timeout after the shot, advancing the ball to the other side of the court for Cornell. The Big Red inbounded with six seconds left, but an Albany foul forced Cornell to inbound again one second later.
Off the second inbound, an Albany player deflected the ball into the backcourt, forcing Mulroy to make an isolation play. She drove up the court and connected on a three-pointer from atop the key to win it for the home team.
“We were looking to just get a shot up, and it just happened to work out,” Mulroy said. “We were looking to get it in to [Snyder] so she could drive, so we just wanted to get a quick one up [so they couldn’t foul].”
Mulroy had shot just 1-for-7 from the field before she hit the game-winner.
“I didn’t shoot as well as I wanted to,” Mulroy said. “When that happens, I just look to my teammates to try and get them the ball and try to get them to make some buckets.”
Despite the victory, Cornell only shot 19-for-56 from the field and made just three three-pointers.
“We were getting some good shots, [but] we weren’t making them,” Smith said. “We needed to settle down, get a couple of easy baskets [and] get our press going.”
Haegerstrand led Albany with 16 points and senior forward Lucia Decortes added 12 points and eight rebounds. The Great Danes shot 35% from the field. The Big Red outrebounded the visitors, 40-33.
Now at .500 on the season, Cornell will travel to play Lafayette Sunday.
“A lot of teams struggle to guard us inside,” Mbanefo said. “[We’ll keep] the momentum up by rebounding the ball inside.”