Section: Basketball

Cooke collects 2 NCAC honors over winter break

Cooke collects 2 NCAC honors over winter break

Cooke led the Owls to their first NCAC victory. | SEJIN KIM/SID/NCAA

As many Kenyon students returned home for winter break, the women’s basketball team hit the hardwood. The Owls split four non-conference games and earned their first conference victory over the College of Wooster, but also fell in a trio of NCAC games. With a month left in the regular season, Kenyon’s record is 5-10 (1-4 NCAC).

On Dec. 10, Kenyon fell to Penn State Behrend (Pa.) 69-66 at home. The Owls led 22-14 after the first quarter, but the Lions outscored Kenyon by 15 points in the second frame, taking a seven-point lead into halftime. After an even third quarter, Kenyon scored the first 10 points of the final frame to lead 55-51 with five minutes to play. Though momentum swung in the Owls’ favor, the Lions roared back and took the lead for good with three minutes to play. Despite the loss, center Claudia Cooke ’24 took home her first of two NCAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week honors for her strong performances against Berhend and Penn State Shenango.

Kenyon got back on the court on Dec. 18 to face Otterbein University. After a low-scoring first half that saw the Owls lead 14-13, the Cardinals’ scorching third-quarter shooting from the floor (62.5%) propelled them to a 57-50 win.

The Owls picked up play again on Dec. 30. In its final game of 2022, Kenyon went on the road to play North Central College (Ill.). Though the Cardinals led early in the game, Kenyon gained the lead halfway through and never trailed again, with strong shooting from beyond the arc in the second half (87.5%) lifting the Owls to a 73-61 win. 

Unfortunately, Kenyon was unable to open the new year with a win, as it fell to Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) at home on Jan. 4. In the 76-44 loss, Kenyon’s 22 turnovers proved costly, as OWU scored 17 points off turnovers.

Looking to get back in the win column, the Owls faced off against the University of Maine Fort Kent Bengals on Jan. 9. Kenyon never trailed throughout the game, leading by as many as 28 points. The Owls’ 58 rebounds helped them secure the 65-44 win. Alyssa Gest ’26, who paced Kenyon with 14 points, highlighted the team’s offense as a key factor to their 4-6 record in non-conference games. “We played well with non-conference teams by staying competitive and looking for great shots,” she wrote in an email to the Collegian

On Jan. 11, Kenyon looked to stay in the win column with a victory against the College of Wooster. The outlook was dire for the Owls, as they trailed for the entire first half. Down 37-30 at the start of the third quarter, Kenyon opened the half with a big run to take its first lead of the game. From there, the two teams stayed close, trading points throughout the third and fourth quarters. After a Wooster free throw with 10 seconds on the clock tied the game at 65-65, Cooke, who earned NCAC Player of the Week, put home the layup in the paint to give the Owls their first conference win of the season. Cooke believes the win can help propel Kenyon to further success in NCAC play. “It felt really good, we were all happy with the win and it gave us momentum for the next conference games we have to play,” she said.

Unfortunately, Kenyon was unable to win consecutive conference games, as they fell in lopsided fashion to DePauw University on Saturday. Though the Owls kept it close early, the Tigers pulled away late in the first quarter and never looked back, taking the contest 82-54. 

On Wednesday, Kenyon fell behind early on the road to Wittenberg University. After the Tigers took a 21-6 lead in the first quarter, they continued their torrid scoring on the way to a 62-40 win. 

For Orefice, a continued emphasis on defense in conference games will help Kenyon find further success. “I think we can continue to improve on defense, in limiting runs, getting stops and defensive and offensive rebounding, which will then help us push the ball a bit more offensively,” she said.

Kenyon next plays on Saturday, when they will host Oberlin College. Orefice hopes that the team will continue to grow in the final month of the regular season. “This season has been a good experience so far. As a young team, we have faced some ups and downs as a team, but have stayed together throughout and are now focused on improving as we play more conference games,” she said. 

Cooke highlighted a chance to go dancing in the NCAC tournament as the team’s primary focus over the upcoming weeks. “My goal and I believe the rest of the team’s goal is to go into the NCAC playoffs seeded in the top half of the conference,” she said.

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