Last Saturday in Levien, the women's basketball team was able to pull off a feat it had not managed for four years—winning its Ivy opener.
Although there were many factors behind the victory—clutch free throw shooting down the stretch, first-year Carolyn Binder's 16 points off the bench, senior forward Courtney Bradford's 11 rebounds—it was the defense holding Cornell to 19 points in the first half that proved most crucial.
The key to Columbia's ability to stifle the Big Red offense was its presence in the paint. The Lions held the focal point of Cornell's offense—forward Allyson DiMagno—to just three shots before halftime, only one of which she hit.
But over the course of the last 20 minutes DiMagno went 6-for-8, and even though the Lions held on for the win, she ended up with a game-high 21 points. Add to that the fact that she pulled down 22 rebounds in a double-overtime win against Columbia last year, and it is easy to see that she is someone the Light Blue must hone in on in this weekend's rematch.
Lions head coach Stephanie Glance knows what DiMagno is capable of, and she knows to take her into account any time she is on the floor.
“She's a great player who is very versatile,” Glance said. “She's agile, she can score inside or out, she can catch and shoot, and she is good off the dribble. There's a lot she can do when the ball is in her hands.”
When DiMagno—who averaged 14.7 points and 11.5 rebounds per game last season—is on the court, she looks naturally athletic and moves well with and without the ball. However, she credits her work ethic for her success on the court.
“From a young age it was instilled in me by my father that people might be more talented or skilled or athletic, but if you can work your butt off and give it everything you have, you're going to be successful,” DiMagno said.
Cornell head coach Dayna Smith said she is always impressed by how hard DiMagno works, and that she brings a lot of intangibles to the court.
“She's definitely the hardest-working player I've ever coached or have ever been around on any team,” Smith said. “I think her work ethic is phenomenal and people respect her because of what she does on a daily basis.”
Although DiMagno had an incredible second half against the Lions, she gave credit to Columbia's hustle in the paint and on the defensive boards, and acknowledged that she will have to play physically against the Lions this weekend.
“They have four or five girls who really hit the boards, and I think that is a tribute to the hard work that they have put in,” she said.
Although DiMagno is graduating this year, her work ethic will have a continued effect for years to come by way of the younger players she is currently mentoring, including forward Nia Marshall, who is second in scoring for the Big Red with 12.3 points per game.
“I think she leads by example for everybody,” Smith said. “Her teammates are playing alongside somebody who is willing to sacrifice her body every day, and she is a great role model for the younger players.”