CINCINNATI, Ohio – The Kenyon College women’s basketball team opened its 2023-24 campaign on Thursday night in Cincinnati, Ohio for the Mount St. Joseph Lauren Hill Tip-off Classic against Otterbein University. Despite an early fourth-quarter comeback beginning to materialize, the Owls fell 65-45 to the Cardinals’ high-flying offense.
Senior center Claudia Cooke was the standout leader for the Owls offense in the team’s 2023-24 debut, scoring a game-high 22 points on 50% shooting from the field and adding eight points from the line shooting at a team-high 80%.
Cooke, who was second on the squad in total points and points per game last season, started off the game with two quick layups, but after two equally quick fouls, she was forced off the court. Anissa Hardy’s turnaround hook, Mikayla Rudolph’s layup, and Bela Krslovic’s deep three at the end of the quarter kept Kenyon within reach after one, as Otterbein’s lead stood at 16-11.
In the second quarter, the Owls struggled to score, partly due to the rebound play. In the quarter, the Cardinals, coming off of a 17-10 record last year in the Ohio Athletic Conference, had seven offensive rebounds to Kenyon’s one, and ten defensive rebounds compared to Kenyon’s seven. Struggling on the glass and a 15.4% field goal percentage saw Otterbein go on a 15-6 run to end the half up 32-17.
After halftime, the Owls’ offensive struggles continued, but the team created offensive opportunities at the free-throw line well. Kenyon drew seven fouls in the third leading to seven points. Cooke, Hardy, and Megan Lieb all chipped in for points in the quarter, going a combined 7-12 from the charity stripe. Rudolph and Krslovic also hit big threes down the stretch in the third to cut into the Cardinals’ lead, with the Owls trailing 51-30 with ten minutes left to play.
Despite the deficit, the Owls showed resilience in the fourth, going on a 9-7 run to start the final quarter fueled by nine straight Cooke points, going 4-7 from the field. Lieb, Cook, and Melana Pomerants added points of their own for the Owls in the rest of the quarter, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the offense of the Cardinals, and the Owls ultimately fell 65-45.
For the game, Cooke led all players with 20 points. Krslovic added 22 minutes and two threes, hitting at a 40% clip, along with two rebounds. Hardy and Rudolph each chipped in with five points apiece and 31 minutes, while Hardy corralled five rebounds and one assist, and Rudolph had four rebounds and one assist as well. Defensively, Hardy and sophomore Alexis Newman led the Owls with one block each, while Rudolph and Pomerants snagged one steal each.
The Owls stay in Cincinnati for the second game of the Lauren Hill Tip-off Classic, hosted by Mount St. Joseph University, where Kenyon will face off against the Wilmington College Quakers on Friday at 1:00 pm.