Women's basketball wins season opener against Bryant

| 11/15/09 11:00pm
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11.16.09.sports.wBasketball
by Nicholas Root and Nicholas Root / The Dartmouth

Cassie Cooper '11 led the way for the Big Green (1-0, 0-0 Ivy) with 14 points and seven rebounds. Brittney Smith '11 and Betsy Williams '10 also scored in double digits, adding 12 and 10 points, respectively.

The Bulldogs stayed close to Dartmouth throughout the second half with three-pointers, shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc in the half. Bryant senior Court Schermerhorn was especially on target, hitting four treys. The Big Green was never able to get control of the half or build a large lead, despite strong inside penetration.

"I think that I was fouled every time I got inside," Smith said. "It was effective because we didn't make all our free throws, but one of their starting post players fouled out, and so they had to got with four guards, which gave us an advantage because they had a guard on one of our post players. In the end, it backfired for them."

Bryant went on an 11-3 run early in the second half to cut the Big Green's lead to 41-35 at 10:55. Dartmouth responded and was able to build its lead to 10 by 9:28, but the Bulldogs again cut their deficit, and trailed 45-40 with 8:34 to go.

"I was a little bit surprised to see the scoreboard and see that the lead was only five," Megan McFee '11 said. "They were hitting a lot of threes. We knew that they were good shooters, so I think that our guards could have done better closing down shots."

The Big Green did not let its lead shrink any further, however, as the team scored seven unanswered points to build a 12-point lead with under five minutes to play. Bryant continued its scrappy performance to the end, though Dartmouth was able to hold on for the win.

"It was a great win for us. Bryant is a really good team, and it was a big test to start the season," McFee said. "We have some tough games coming up, so it was good to get ready with this game."

The victory marks the first time in three seasons that the Big Green has won its opening game. Last season, the team opened with a blowout loss to the University of Hartford. Opening day defeats do not seem to have any effect on the Big Green, however, as the team has gone on to play in the postseason in all three of its past seasons, winning the Ivy League title twice.

Dartmouth is the favorite to win the the championship again this year, which would make the Big Green the first team to three-peat since Harvard did so in 2005. The Big Green has eight upperclassmen returning to the team that lost just one Ivy League game last year.

One returning upperclassman is Michelle Meyer '10, missed all of last year due to injury.

"It was a great feeling to get back out there," Meyer said. "It was different from being part of the support crew, and it was good to get back and do everything we've learned in practices. It was awkward at first, but I think I got into my comfort zone."

Dartmouth opened the game with a 12-0 run and, after Schermerhorn retaliated with back-to-back threes, the Big Green picked up where it had left off and extended its lead to 19-6.

Brittney Smith was forced to sit seven minutes into the game after picking up two early fouls. Her sister, Margaret Smith '10, however, ensured that the Bulldogs did not get too close, extending the Dartmouth lead to 24-10 with a three-pointer. The Big Green entered halftime with a 28-16 lead.

"It made me refocus for the second half," Brittney Smith said. "I'm not used to sitting 15 minutes straight, but Sasha [Doshenko '12] and Roxy [Jalea Moses '12] were able to step up. That's one thing we focus on as a team, to be balanced."

Dartmouth played strong defense throughout the game, holding Bryant's field goals to 26.2 percent on the day and just 16.7 percent in the first half. The Big Green also forced 18 turnovers. Bryant committed 22 fouls, though Dartmouth was only able to shoot 62 percent from the charity stripe.

The Big Green will continue its non-conference schedule this Thursday as it hosts Temple at 7 p.m. at Leede Arena. Next Sunday, Dartmouth will host Hartford at 2 p.m.

"Temple and Hartford are really good teams, but [head coach Chris Wielgus] has good preparation for opponents like them," Meyer said. "She tells us that they're stronger and tougher than us, but that we can't play into their hands and that we just have to be more poised and be more patient."

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