UNH rolls over a youthful Big Green

by Austin Zalkin | 1/16/02 6:00am

Dartmouth women's basketball fell 75-52 to the University of New Hampshire at Leede Arena last night. With superstar center Katherine Hanks '03 out due to a knee injury, the Big Green struggled on both ends of the court.

Dartmouth missed Hanks' 20.5 points per game, as the team made only 6-27 shots in the first half and 15-53 for the game. The Big Green also lacked an inside presence on the boards, with the Wildcats holding a 47-33 rebounding edge, including 16-9 on the offensive glass.

"When you have an inside player like [Hanks] go out, something's going to happen," Dartmouth head coach Chris Wielgus said after the game. "What we saw tonight was an extremely young team. There were people out there who had a minimum amount of playing experience."

The youthful Big Green turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, but the team cut down on its mistakes and increased defensive pressure to force the Wildcats into 14 turnovers in the second half. Dartmouth also improved upon its 22.2 percent shooting effort in the opening stanza, shooting 34.6 percent in the second half.

Courtney Lewis '04 took over Hanks' starring role for the Big Green. Lewis became more aggressive as the contest went on and finished with a game-high 15 points, tying her career high. Despite being slowed by the flu, Lewis used quick hands to make six steals in the second half and shoot 3-4 from three-point range for the game.

"Courtney Lewis is on a level by herself right now," Wielgus said. "She's a remarkably gifted athlete, a remarkably gifted point guard. She's [also] the most tired player out there right now."

The difference between Lewis' and her teammates' play in the first half and the second half was obvious. The Big Green endured an 18-possession, 10:43 scoring drought in the middle of the first half, which Lewis ended with her first three of the night.

In the opening period, the Big Green was repeatedly pushed around by the Wildcats' inside players, especially center Maren Matthias, who pulled down eight rebounds in the first half. UNH outshot the Big Green 40-27 in the half as they garnered second and third chances inside.

"We didn't move the ball well, we weren't defending well, we couldn't buy a basket," Wielgus said of the team's first half performance. "The turnovers occurred because we weren't moving without the ball."

But the Big Green turned around in the second half, mostly in the final 10 minutes of play, grabbing steals and loose balls and pushing upcourt for easier scoring opportunities. Forward Katie Skelly '03 and guard Katie Frett '05 each scored seven of their nine points in the final 8:14 of the second half.

Coach Wielgus praised Frett's "moxie" for recovering from several early missed shots to help carry the Big Green late. Skelly shot 3-5 in the second half after a slow start and grabbed nine rebounds.

"They grew right before your eyes," Wielgus said of her players. "They started out panicked and scared and tentative, and by the end of the game they were attacking."

Despite the in-game improvement of several Big Green players, the team can only be looking forward to the return of their biggest star. Hanks will miss the Big Green's next two games -- non-conference contests tomorrow against Northeastern at home and again at in Hanover this Saturday versus Vermont -- but should return for Dartmouth's next Ivy League game, Feb. 1 at Yale.

Until then, Wielgus said, "they're a young team, and we'll see who rises to the occasion."