Women's hoops upsets Cornell, stays alive in title hunt

by Kevin Liao | 3/3/08 3:40am

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The women's basketball team righted itself after hitting a rough spot and is now back in contention for the Ivy League title this coming weekend.
by Kyle Betts / The Dartmouth

Dartmouth (12-14, 9-3 Ivy) is now tied with Cornell (17-8, 9-3 Ivy) for second place in the Ancient Eight. Both teams trail frontrunner Harvard (17-9, 10-2 Ivy) by one game as the teams enter the final weekend of regular-season play.

"Those wins were huge for us," co-captain Sydney Scott '08 said. "It still puts us in the race for first place if some really special things happen the last weekend of the season. The Ivy League can be crazy at times with people who aren't supposed to win pulling off the upset."

Dartmouth and Harvard will both finish their seasons with two games against weaker Ivy teams -- Yale (8-16, 6-6 Ivy) and Brown (2-24, 1-11 Ivy). The Big Green will have to win both of its games and hope for a Harvard loss to force a playoff to decide who will represent the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament.

On Friday, Dartmouth's win against the Big Red was nothing short of spectacular. Brittney Smith '11, who has had an outstanding freshman season, received a perfect pass in the post from co-captain Kristen Craft '08 and converted the game-winner with just three seconds left.

"Craft passed me the ball at the elbow, and I didn't really think about anything but going to the basket, and my shot went in," Smith said. "It was a good feeling that we were able to win with three seconds left on the clock.".

The Big Red took possession with 48 seconds left, and after a timeout to set up the offense, junior Lacey Workman was set up for an open three-point shot. The shot, however, sailed long and the ball was brought down by Craft with 20 seconds remaining.

Instead of calling a timeout, Dartmouth chose to run the clock down and play for the last shot.

But even as the Big Green held the lead with less than three seconds to play, Cornell's long inbound pass was intercepted by Scott , but she was called for traveling with 1.9 seconds remaining on the clock, giving the Big Red one last chance on its offensive side of the floor.

Dartmouth's defense came through again, stifling Cornell's inside two-point attempt to seal the game.

The victory can be attributed in part to Dartmouth's outstanding defensive performance that held Cornell to only two points and no field goals in the final six minutes.

The Big Red dominated the first half of Friday's contest, holding leads of 15-7, 26-18 and 30-24.

While Dartmouth was outshot by only a narrow margin, 50 percent to 46 percent, the Big Green's 11 turnovers in the period proved to be the difference.

Cornell increased its lead to nine in the opening minutes of the second half before Dartmouth ran an 11-0 charge to take a 36-34 lead at 10:46. The Big Red answered with a 6-0 run for a 42-36 advantage with 6:12 left, but it was the last time Cornell would score.

Dartmouth's defense posted a strong performance for the remainder of the game. Scott scored the next four points, bring the score to 42-40 and setting the stage for Smith's heroics.

"Our defense is what won us the game," Scott said. "We lost shooters in the first half that were making baskets from three-point land, but in the second half we found those shooters and didn't let them get a good look from the outside."

The offense remained consistent at a solid 47.5 percent in the second half. Cornell was stifled to 26.3 percent second-half shooting and was held well below its Ivy scoring average of 69.5 points per game.

No Big Green player racked up double digit points, but seven players had at least four, demonstrating a more consistent attack than the team has shown this season.

On Saturday, the Big Green faced Columbia for its final home match of the season. Craft and Scott led the team with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists and 12 points and nine rebounds, respectively. Schram also posted double digits with 12 points.

Despite shooting just 32.6 percent on the night, Dartmouth focused on its defense and rebounding, and held the Lions to just 41 points on 25.4 percent shooting.

The outcome of Saturday's game was never in doubt. The Big Green raced out to a 12-0 lead before Columbia scored at the 15:38 mark.

The temporary stop was short-lived, however, and Dartmouth broke the game wide open with a 10-0 run for a 22-2 lead.

Columbia's next basket would come with 8:10 left in the half, but the Lions could not break double digits as Dartmouth led 28-9 going into the break.

The Lions finally came alive coming out of the locker room, and went on a 13-6 run to slice the lead to 37-22 with 14 minutes left in the contest.

Dartmouth's offense stalled for the next five minutes, allowing Columbia to bring the score to 40-31 with less than nine minutes on the clock.

Dartmouth launched again with an 8-2 run, extending its lead to 15 with five minutes left and defeating the Lions for good.

Dartmouth hits the road for its final two games of the regular season against Yale and Brown. The Big Green will need to sweep and hope that one of its opponents upsets Harvard in the final weekend of the season, which would force a playoff to determine the Ivy title.

"The team is feeling really good that we were able to win and further our chances of winning the Ivies," Smith said. "But we just have to keep the focus so we can win our final two."

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