Women's basketball rallies to win two Ivy League games

by Kevin Liao | 2/4/08 4:37am

The Big Green put itself in a three-way tie for first place in the Ivy League with two wins, over Princeton and Penn, last weekend.

With the weekend sweep, the Big Green (6-12, 3-1 Ivy) leads the Ancient Eight along with Cornell (11-6, 3-1 Ivy), Harvard (10-8, 3-1 Ivy) and Yale (5-12, 3-1 Ivy).

In all three of its Ancient Eight wins this season, Dartmouth had to battle back from second-half deficits and build key scoring runs to win.

Head coach Chris Wielgus pointed out that the team does a superb job of stifling opposing teams to throw up long jumpers when the shot clock is winding down.

"We pride ourselves in our defense," Wielgus said. "We started with a young team and didn't know who we were. But now this is one of the best defensive teams I've ever coached."

On Friday, Dartmouth got off to a strong start against Princeton (4-15, 1-2 Ivy), welcoming back Courtney Banghart '00, former first team All-Ivy athlete and assistant coach for Dartmouth, who is now in her first year as Princeton's head coach.

"There were certainly emotions and it was different seeing her on the other side," Wielgus said of the team's first encounter with Banghart as an opponent. "But it was just a matter of us focusing on Princeton and winning the game."

As the game began, Dartmouth's defense was outstanding, holding the Tigers without a field goal until over eight minutes into the first half. The Big Green offense hit a wall and could not put the game away. By the time Dartmouth hit a shot, the lead was down to 13-7.

After a quick timeout, Dartmouth broke out of its slump to take a 25-17 lead at the half, highlighted by co-captain Sydney Scott '08 blocking a jump shot by Princeton and then taking the ball coast to coast for a layup.

The Big Green put a lid on the Tigers' offense in the opening half by clamping down its defense and holding Princeton to 16.7 percent shooting. Smith had 10 points and eight rebounds.

To start the second half, Princeton hit three straight three pointers in the first three minutes for a 30-29 lead.

The teams traded baskets and leads before Betsy Williams '10 answered with a three-ball to give Dartmouth the lead for good, 44-42, with just under 10 minutes left to play. A three-point play by Scott and turnovers by Princeton extended the lead to 58-46, ending any hopes of a comeback for the Tigers.

Dartmouth showed exceptional off-ball movement and energy on defense.

"We worked a lot in practice," Williams said. "We had movement on offense and a great inside-out game. When we're moving and in rhythm, it's easy to make shots."

In the final minutes of the contest, Dartmouth was led by co-captains Scott and Kristen Craft '08, who scored five points each to engineer a 10-0 run.

Williams matched her career best with 17 points while Brittney Smith '11 had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, five of which were on the offensive end. Koren Schram '09 scored nine points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Scott added 12 points, and Craft chipped in with eight.

Dartmouth's balanced play helped to seal the victory. Princeton was limited to just 30.6 percent shooting while the Big Green shot 48.0 percent from the field, including 59.1 percent in the second half.

Against Penn (3-15, 0-3 Ivy), the Big Green relied on a brilliant 18-0 second half run to topple the Quakers.

Penn was able to extend its 29-25 halftime lead to 40-34 in the first six minutes of the final half but things quickly unraveled for the Quakers.

Schram nailed a jumper to initiate an18-0 run. As a result, Dartmouth built a 52-40 lead and never let up. The Big Green hit its all-important free throws at the end to ice the game.

Dartmouth grabbed nearly twice as many rebounds as Penn did, 46-24. The team dominated the Quakers on the offensive glass, seizing a 21-2 margin and a 14-0 lead in second chance points.

"Coach always emphasizes rebounds," Smith said. "Those second shots are key because they keep the pressure off our shooters.

Next weekend, the Big Green continues its home stand, welcoming Brown on Friday and Yale on Saturday.

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