Women’s basketball defeats Harvard on road by six

by Ashley DuPuis | 1/24/16 7:00pm

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Women's basketball held onto its lead to beat Harvard.

Dartmouth earned a hard-fought victory Saturday night over Harvard University on the road in their first league win of the season. Taking the lead in the first quarter with a free throw from Kate Letkewicz ’18, Dartmouth would remain ahead for the majority of the game, resulting in a 70-64 finish.

“It’s a great environment,” Letkewicz said of playing in Cambridge. “We have a big rivalry [with Harvard], so it’s really intense and really competitive.”

Letkewicz’s explosive play led the Big Green. The sophomore racked up 26 points and 17 rebounds, marking her third career double-double. She shot 9 for 17 from field goal range and 3 for 5 from three-point range.

“We talked about getting better and getting our strengths better and Kate is good at a lot of things,” head coach Belle Koclanes said. “She has physicality. She can post up guards and she can post up posts. She can shoot from three and we got her the ball in great positions tonight — credit to her teammates for getting her the ball.”

Lakin Roland ’16 continued to impress with consistent play going 5 for 6 on free throws, and putting up 18 points and 11 rebounds, her fifth double-double of the season.

Koclanes previously addressed the need for the team to stop competing in spurts and to play consistently. The team clearly showed this improvement. For the first time in the season, Dartmouth outscored its opponents in three quarters. When the Big Green faced the Crimson just two weeks ago, they were out-scored every quarter. Improving their field goal percentage from 31.5 to 49.0, Dartmouth’s stats speak to a complete turn-around from their last game.

“We competed really hard,” Letkewicz said. “That was just a point of emphasis for us. I think our confidence also really contributed.”

Harvard’s performance seemed reminiscent of Dartmouth’s play from their last meeting. The Crimson attempted a late comeback in the third quarter but to no avail as their early deficits and a persistent Dartmouth defense were too much to overcome.

Defensively, Dartmouth shut the Crimson down, allowing only two Harvard players to score in double figures, an improvement from last game’s four players. They also held Harvard’s star player AnnMarie Healy, who averages nearly 15 points per game, to eight rebounds, preventing her from picking up a double-double.

The game reached its most crucial moments with 2:29 left to play when Harvard’s Shilpa Tummala made a three point shot, putting the Crimson over the Big Green 63-62. Roland answered quickly following a Dartmouth time-out with a three of her own, helping the Big Green regain their long-held lead. Harvard remained persistent with Madeline Raster making a free throw with 1:45 remaining in the last quarter, which left the Big Green with only a one-point lead. However, free throws by Roland, Letkewicz and Amber Mixon ’18 in the last seconds of the game sealed a Dartmouth victory.

“The first game we got beat on boards and effort play,” Roland said. “So the past two weeks we really focused on boxing out, strong defense and our effort play as a whole.”

The program has a lot to celebrate recently with Roland reaching her 1,000th career point against the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Dec. 31, former alumna and player Gail Koziara Boudreaux ’82 donating $2 million to endow the head coach position and now winning a hard-fought victory over Harvard. The team looks to build off of the foundation laid by previous players and coaches as it strives to earn its 18th Ivy League title this season.

“It was a great kick-start to having a successful season,” Letkewicz said. “We saw our potential and what we are capable of. We just need to continue our confidence and trust in the rest of the team. When we are all playing together and contributing, that’s when we see results.”

The Big Green hopes to improve upon last year’s season finish of 14-14, in which the team finished sixth in the Ivy League.

“We want to end our season positive since last year we broke even,” Roland said.

The team will continue their Ivy League play on the road in New York, facing Columbia University on Friday at 7 p.m. and Cornell University on Saturday at 6 p.m.