Women's basketball loses footing in Ivy League title race

by Kevin Liao | 2/19/08 2:34am

The Dartmouth women's basketball team led by over 10 points in one game and trailed by over 10 in the other midway in the second half of each game of its New York Ivy swing, but the final outcome was the same in each as the Big Green fell to Columbia, 58-55, and Cornell, 50-43.

Dartmouth (8-14, 5-3 Ivy) slipped from its first-place tie in the Ivy League standings to a third-place tie with Columbia (8-14, 5-3 Ivy), while Cornell (15-6, 7-1 Ivy) seized sole possession of first place, with Harvard (13-9, 6-2 Ivy) one game back.

It was a rough weekend for Dartmouth, as both captain Kristen Craft '08 and Koren Schram '09 were ill in what may have been the deciding weekend for Dartmouth's Ivy title aspirations.

"Cornell and Columbia are both tough teams to play on a very long road trip," Craft said. "We weren't able to come out with a win, which is very disappointing, but we know we have to bounce back and get them again when they come to our place."

On Friday, the Big Green held an 11-point advantage with just under 11 minutes left in the game, but the Lions' strong inside game enabled Columbia to close the gap and surge ahead, 56-53, with 1:36 remaining. In the final minute, Dartmouth had two chances to tie the game with three-point shots but couldn't get either to fall.

The Big Green's inability to grab an edge in second-chance points doomed its hopes. While the two teams had roughly the same number of rebounds, Columbia scored 16 more points than Dartmouth in second-chance conversions.

The team was carried by rookie sensation Brittany Smith '11, who led all scorers with a career-high 22 points and eight rebounds. Co-captain Sydney Scott '08 was just shy of a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds, but Dartmouth didn't get much offensive help from other players, as just five other players scored and none scored more than six points.

The score was back and forth in the early goings of the game until Columbia used a 10-4 run to take an 18-12 lead with 8:08 left in the half. But the Big Green answered just as quickly, going on an 8-2 run of its own to square the game at 20-all with two minutes left in the opening half. Neither team would budge in the final minutes, and the score was 24-24 at the intermission.

Just as Columbia was looking to pull ahead at the start of the second half, scoring two quick buckets, Dartmouth raced on a 13-0 run in a span of less than five minutes to take a 37-28 lead. While the Lions were determined to battle back at that point, the Big Green kept Columbia at bay, taking its largest lead of the night, 43-32, with 10:59 left in the game off a Smith layup.

But that's when things started going sour. Columbia simply refused to go down without a fight, doling out a 15-5 run over the next five minutes. Senior Michele Gage hit a huge three pointer to cap the run and draw Columbia within a point, 48-47, at the 6:06 mark. Things wouldn't end there, as the Lions kept hacking at it and finally took their first lead of the night, 51-50, thanks to a baseline jumper from sophomore Sara Yee with 3:38 remaining.

The Big Green then committed a huge mistake, fouling Gage while she was shooting a three pointer. Gage then went to the line and converted two out of three. After a Scott jumper and Smith free throw, Dartmouth clawed even, 53-53, with just over two minutes on the clock.

Columbia freshman Lauren Dwyer, however, would have the final say. Dwyer topped off the Lions' series of conventional three-point plays with the game-winning layup and foul shot at 1:36 to give Columbia a 56-53 lead that would prove insurmountable.

On Saturday, it was a different story for Dartmouth, but with the same result. The Big Green mounted a courageous comeback in the closing minutes against Cornell. Dartmouth could not get closer than three points, however, as the Big Red hit its free throws late and iced the game.

Scott carried much of the scoring load with 15 points, and Schram added 12 despite a poor shooting night, but the Big Green had terrible time making baskets. Like the night before, there was the lack of a third scoring option, as no one else stepped up and scored more than four. Smith, Dartmouth's leading scorer who had five straight strong games coming into the contest, was limited to just four points. No player made 50 percent or more of her shots, and the bench only contributed four points.

Overall, Dartmouth shot a dreadful 25 percent from the field and only 2 of 14 from long range. The Big Green was also uncharacteristically out-rebounded by a huge margin, 39-25, giving the team little chance for second-chance opportunities on the offensive end.

Dartmouth was down and out by 15 points with only 6:33 left in the game before mastering a 12-0 run. Craft was instrumental during this stretch, hitting a layup and a pair of free throws, and on defense, she teamed up with Schram to stifle the Big Red guards. Betsy Williams '10 wrapped up the run with a jumper at 2:17 to close the deficit to 41-38.

The Big Green then had no choice but to foul, and Cornell hit four of six in the final minute to deny Dartmouth the chance at victory.

Dartmouth will remain on the road to face Penn and Princeton this coming weekend, but even a sweep might not matter for the Big Green's post-season hopes, as both Cornell and Harvard play teams in the bottom four of the Ancient Eight.

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