Women's basketball wins OT thriller

by Emily Wechsler | 11/17/14 4:38pm

The women's basketball team opened its season with a 68-63 win over NJIT.
by Blaze Joel / Blaze Joel

The women’s basketball team beat the New Jersey Institute of Technology Sunday in overtime 68-63 in its season opener at Leede Arena, despite shooting under 37 percent from the field.

“The roller coaster ride that was a first game? Awesome. I mean, it’s basketball season,” second-year head coach Belle Koclanes said in a post-game press conference.

Lakin Roland ’16 was the game’s hero, converting a quick-release shot at the buzzer to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Dartmouth never trailed against the Highlanders (0-2) until the final minute, when a NJIT three-pointer gave the visitors a 54-53 lead . The lead was never more than 10 points.

Both teams had scoring opportunities, and with just seconds left and the game tied, NJIT senior point guard Alyssa Albanese put her team ahead 57-55. After referee review, 0.6 seconds were left on the clock. Dartmouth inbounded the ball with a baseball pass that sailed past half-court and was knocked out of bounds by NJIT.

Dartmouth was given 0.4 seconds. Milica Toskovic ’15 started a beautifully designed play with a lob pass from in front of the Dartmouth bench that sailed across the court to Roland at the far post. Roland jumped up, caught and released the ball in one motion, scoring as the backboard lit up for the end of regular time to force the extra period.

“It was unbelievable, I can’t believe it worked,” Roland said in a post-game press conference. “Coach told us to have fun and we’ll see if it works, and it did.”

The Big Green outscored the Highlanders 11-6 to take the overtime win. The extra frame began scoreless, as neither team could convert for the first two minutes of overtime. But a 7-3 run over the next 2:20 secured the win for the Big Green.

Last season, the Big Green-Highlander matchup ended in a close Big Green win as well, one of just five wins for the Dartmouth women that season.

NJIT head coach Steve Lanpher said in a press conference the Highlanders talked at half time about focusing on defending Fanni Szabo ’17 and Roland. But the extra attention could not slow the Big Green duo.

Roland earned a double-double, scoring 18 points and 11 rebounds, outdone only by Szabo, who had 21 points on the day. Toskovic also posted a double-double for the game with 14 points and 11 boards.

Koclanes said the team had worked on playing a fast-paced game earlier in the week. It showed Sunday, as players drove to the net on the attack. While Dartmouth’s defense caused several NJIT shot clock violations, the Big Green offense did not come close.

The aggressive attack featured Amber Mixon ’18, who took over for Nicola Zimmer ’14, who graduated, at the point. Mixon scored two and earned three rebounds and an assist in her collegiate debut.

“She’s our little Muggsy Bogues,” Koclanes said at the press conference. “She brings this composure that we need. It’s hard to find freshman point guards who have that.”

The other freshmen all entered the game as well, with Olivia Smith ’18, Kate Letkewicz ’18 and Emily Slagle ’18 logging a total of 45 minutes on the court combined.

Koclanes said she was proud of the team’s effort in its first game of the season, both on and off the court.

“The bench was awesome, staying involved, calling out actions and then everyone contributed,” Koclanes said at the press conference. “That’s what teams do. Everyone steps up.”

The Big Green hosts the College of the Holy Cross Thursday at 7 p.m. Last season, the Crusaders defeated the Big Green 84-59 in Worcester, Massachusetts.