Women's basketball downs Siena in historic comeback
In the second-biggest comeback effort in NCAA Division I women's basketball history, Dartmouth women's basketball overcame a 21-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Siena Saints in overtime, 86-82.
Although Siena defeated Dartmouth in a 51-49 thriller last year and holds an 8-5 edge in the all-time series record, the Big Green improved its overall record to 7-3 on the season with the win and halted the Saints' four-game winning streak against Dartmouth.
Two minutes into the first half, Dartmouth opened the scoring with a layup by Sydney Scott '08, but the Saints outshot the Big Green thereafter to open up a commanding 56-35 advantage with 13:23 left in the second half. At that point, however, Jeannie Cullen '06 and Fatima Kamara '07 contributed a three-pointer and a layup, respectively, to revive the trailing Lady Big Green.
The Big Green continued its comeback and got within ten points of Siena when Krista Perry '06 made a jumper with 8:16 left in the game. Then, with the collective efforts of Cullen, Angie Soriaga '06 and Ashley Taylor '07, Dartmouth ultimately tied the score at 75 when the buzzer rang.
In overtime, the score was knotted twice before Dartmouth pulled away with two free throws by Soriaga with 22 seconds left. The Saints missed a three-pointer and a layup in the final moments before Perry grabbed the rebound and ended the game at 86-82.
"Going into the game we knew that [Siena] would be similar to us, for having a good inside and perimeter game," Scott said. "After a slow first half, coach made some changes, like going to a smaller, quicker lineup to change the look of the game. That [change], along with red-hot three-point shooting, good penetration from the guards and man-to-man defense helped us force overtime and eventually get the win."
Cullen led four Big Green players in double figures with 20 points and was 5-for-7 from behind the arc. Taylor added 16 points while Soriaga chipped in 11 more. Perry grabbed 11 rebounds in the game, was 4-of-4 from the free-throw line and scored a career-high 10 points to round out the double-figure scorers.
For the game, the Lady Green shot 42 percent from the field and 78 percent from the charity stripe.
Dartmouth expected smooth sailing this season after being picked by pundits as the unanimous team to win the Ivy League in the 2005-2006 season. The core members of last year's Ivy League champion team return and are joined by three enthusiastic freshman players.
In the first game of the season, the Big Green rolled over Quinnipiac in a crushing 90-42 victory, the most lopsided Dartmouth win in more than five years. The Lady Green then took on Holy Cross and won again in a 74-63 triumph. Dartmouth continued its winning streak with a convincing 70-63 conquest of the Maine Black Bears and an 83-57 trouncing of Central Connecticut.
Soriaga was named Ivy League women's basketball Player of the Week for her efforts in guiding Dartmouth to an undefeated 4-0 record.
All seemed well on the surface, but trouble was brewing underneath the calm exterior.
One of the problems that Dartmouth has faced this season has been inconsistency, which troubled Dartmouth during its first loss of the season to Stony Brook in a 71-64 decision.
"I have played fairly inconsistently this year -- really good games followed by really bad ones. But I think that's the way everyone is playing," Scott said.
The Big Green shot 9-for-28 from the field and completed only four of 10 three-point attempts against the Seawolves in the second half.
A week later, Dartmouth bounced back with a 76-69 win over Houston. Scott shined in her hometown of Houston, Tex. and scored 16 points in the second half alone.
"Sydney is a great competitor," Dartmouth head coach Chris Wielgus said. "She was hampered by foul trouble in the first half, but she didn't give up."
But then the Big Green fell to Texas A&M in a 62-47 defeat two days later. Soriaga returned to her hometown of College Station, Tex. to take on the team she grew up watching. Despite Soriaga's team-leading 14-points, Dartmouth could not pull off a win.
"Texas A&M is a great team," said Perry. "Elise [Morrison] was out and Ashley [Taylor] actually badly dislocated her finger in the first half. But through the adversity we battled tough with them. The game was a lot closer than the final score indicates."
After losing to Texas A&M, Dartmouth managed a 71-55 win against Akron in the first round of the Blue Sky Restaurant Group Classic but fell to the Loyola Marymount Lions 55-46 in the championship game.
Even though the Big Green built an early 13-point lead just five minutes into the game, an extended period of cold shooting for Dartmouth allowed the Lions to overtake them 10 minutes later.
The Big Green converted only 29.2 percent of its field goal attempts and 22.2 percent of free-throw efforts.
News of a foot injury to star center Elise Morrison '07 was also made public on the day of the Loyola Marymount loss. Morrison suffered a torn foot ligament playing against Maine in November.
"We had known of Elise's injury for about a month," Perry said. "But it came as a huge shock to find out that she was actually getting surgery and would be out for the rest of the season."
Morrison, an Ivy League Player of the Year candidate, is expected to miss the rest of the season as she prepares to undergo foot surgery in January.
"Losing Elise was a big blow to our team as she is such a large part of our game plan both offensively and defensively," said Cullen. "However, I think we still have a very good team and people who are willing to step up this year. We are going to have to change our style of play to a faster-paced pressing team.
"But the team is not going to be phased by her absence," said Perry. "Most of us have played together for at least a year now and we've hit many obstacles before. Elise's injury was just another one. We are ready to win the Ivies again.
"We have a very balanced attack with different players stepping up big each game or we have a very balanced attack with everyone just pulling their weight. But this is what we are going to have to do now that Elise is out for the season," Scott added.
"She was a big part of the offense and her presence will definitely be missed on both sides of the ball. However, we will overcome this adversity. It forces us to be more of a fluid motion team with a balanced attack on offense."
The team is scheduled to commence its Ivy League season with a Saturday evening contest against last season's Ivy co-champion Harvard in Cambridge. The tip-off is set for 6 p.m.