Basketball beats buzzers in winter competitions

by Gayne Kalustian | 1/4/15 10:02pm

The men's basketball team won five of its last seven games, including a game-winning overtime buzzer-beater

A pair of Sports Center Top Tens and buzzer-beating three pointers color the stories of the Dartmouth men and women’s basketball teams who, each coming off losing seasons, have taken it upon themselves to breathe new life into freshly restructured programs.

During the women’s season opener, a vault by Lakin Roland ’16 in the final moments of the game carried the team into overtime against the New Jersey Institute of Technology, ultimately leading to the Big Green’s first victory. Roland released the ball quickly after receiving a quarter-court arching in-bounded pass into the paint with .4 seconds on the clock. The play was listed at number five in the night’s top plays by ESPN .

Just 14 games into their schedule, the women’s basketball team has already won four more games than they had after 28 contests last season. The Big Green (9-5, 0-0) are taking important lessons away from the early season to carry the team into Ivy play, said head coach Belle Koclanes.

“Every game is a different story,” she said. “We started our season out in California and we played three very different teams. A pressing team where they pressed for forty minutes and that gave us an opportunity to work on our press offense and deal with pressure but then we had a zone team which is the complete opposite.”

Despite being challenged by different styles of play, the team came out of the gates on fire, winning its first four matchups and splitting the fifth and sixth games to end their opening run at 5-1. A four-game drought followed, and these away game losses left the team at .500 before it would go on yet another four game rampage, ignited by an overtime comeback against Loyola Chicago University. Dartmouth remains undefeated on its home turf.

Late in the second game and down by 10 points, Roland once again ferried Dartmouth to success. Her double-double performance was at the heart of the team’s ability to weather Loyola’s runs and finish the game in overtime.

The ebb and flow of the team’s season to date has brought with it more wins than the women’s team has seen since Dartmouth’s 2009-2010 season when it picked up 11 wins in 28 games. While the fruits of this labor are sweet, the streaks of losses can remain damaging.

“We can’t be up, up, up when we’re winning and down, down, down when we’re losing,” Koclanes said of the team’s streaky behavior. “The season is too long, there’s too much to learn, and too much to accomplish.”

If one top ten play wasn’t enough for Dartmouth, the Big Green found itself plastered on televisions across America for a second time over the winter break. Forward Connor Boehm ‘16, also profiled in this week’s 1-on-1, sank a buzzer-beating three-pointer for the win against Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, placing him tenth in the Sports Center countdown.

Four of the mens’ twelve games were decided by a single basket. Dartmouth won two of these games in the closing seconds - the first stolen by Boehm’s three and the second sealed by a last second three-point shot in overtime from co-captain Alex Mitola ’16.

In overtime against Northern Illinois University, Mitola shot 80 percent from outside the arch, scoring all 12 of Dartmouth’s points to lead the Big Green to a 58-55 win. Mitola is shooting 42.7% from three, which places him among the top 50 three point percentages in Division 1 NCAA men’s basketball, one of only two Ivy League players to rank in the top 50.

Dartmouth’s three-point shooting makes the team a threat to defenses who give the Big Green too much time and space to set up open looks.

The presence of three-pointers, which seem to come in patches for Dartmouth, presents a bigger issue for Dartmouth’s opponents, Mitola said.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” he said. “You gotta stop runs, answer runs and have runs of your own, and the three point shot is huge in that. You hit three threes and you look up and all the sudden it’s a totally different score.”

The men began their now 6-6 season a player down when small forward John Golden ’15 tore his meniscus before the team’s opening game during practice. Golden didn’t return to the court until the team played Jacksonville State — its eighth game of the season. While his absence was unexpected and unfortunate, Golden said, it gave other players an opportunity to get experience on the court early on in the season.

That experience was emphasized by Mitola, citing it as a critical element for the team that is looking to balance its inside and outside attack to create a more holistic offense.

The Dartmouth men will put its experience to the test at home against Harvard University for its conference opener, while the women travel to Cambridge to take on the Crimson on January 10.