With a critical second-half surge, the women’s basketball team defeated Harvard University, 76-61, at Lavietes Pavilion this past Saturday to open conference play.
After dropping both games to the Crimson (6-8, 0-1 Ivy) last season, the Big Green (10-5, 1-0 Ivy) proved it would be a force to be reckoned in the Ivy League this year.
Harvard’s Annmarie Healy opened the game with a layup before Fanni Szabo ’17 hit a three-point jump shot off an assist by Amber Mixon ’18 to give Dartmouth an early lead. Less than a minute later, Mixon stole the ball and added another two points with a layup of her own.
The Crimson momentarily gained the lead as both teams exchanged possession and baskets, but the Big Green managed to stay within one point of the home team with 10:00 remaining in the first half thanks to a series of Harvard errors and two three-point shots by Katie Vareika ’17.
Dartmouth continued to put pressure on its opponent with layups by Lakin Roland ’16 and Olivia Smith ’18 before a jump shot by Milica Toskovic ’15 gave the Big Green a three point lead with 52 seconds remaining in the half.
Harvard came within one point of Dartmouth off a shot by Erin McDonnell, but a jump shot at the buzzer by Roland off an assist by Toskovic put the Big Green up, 32-29, going into the second half.
Playing with confidence, Mixon said, led to solid offensive possessions going into the game.
“We played with effort and tried to outwork our opponent,” Mixon said.
Szabo began the second period with a jump shot and a three-pointer to extend the visiting team’s lead, 37-29.
The Big Green never looked back as it continued to play aggressively, yet strategically by converting Crimson turnovers into offensive drives. With 15:55 remaining, Toskovic capitalized on a defensive rebound and hit a three-point shot to bring the score to 42-31.
With 11 minutes left in the game, Roland caught fire, scoring eight straight points for Dartmouth. She started off her run by drawing a foul and hitting one of her two free throws.
In the next two offensive possessions, she proceeded to knock down a jumper and then earn another trip to the line. This time, she would sink both attempts. Roland capped off her point spree by sinking a three-pointer, extending the Dartmouth lead to 14.
In the last five minutes of the game, Dartmouth managed to outplay the Crimson, making 14 out of 19 shots to prevent a Harvard comeback.
Two free throw shots by Szabo brought the score to 76-61 before the final buzzer ended the game, giving the Big Green its first 1-0 Ivy League start in five years.
“It was awesome to get a win at Harvard to start off Ivy play,” Roland said. “It serves as fuel to our fire to keep improving everyday.”
Roland led the Big Green with 25 points and nine rebounds, while Toskovic and Szabo added 15 and 14 points, respectively. Vareika finished with 11 points — three of which were three-pointers.
Dartmouth and Harvard were neck and neck throughout the game in field goal percentage with the Big Green shooting 41 percent and the Crimson shooting 37 percent.
Harvard dominated Dartmouth in the paint, scoring 34 out of its 61 points down low.
“Harvard’s post play is very strong,” head coach Belle Koclanes said in an interview with Dartmouthsports.com. “We wanted to limit their opportunities. We did a good job holding [Crimson junior] Temi Fagbenle with positive possessions.”
Dartmouth was able to separate itself from its opponent in the success it enjoyed shooting from deep. Outside the three-point arc, the Big Green hit 53 percent of its shots, good for 30 points, compared to the Crimson’s 21 percent.
Both teams rebounded well with Harvard taking a slight 42-37 edge, but Dartmouth enjoyed much more success in converting turnovers into points, scoring 13 off turnovers compared to just five for Harvard.
“We could have done a better job by rebounding and limiting our opponent to only one shot,” Mixon said. “But our focus during the game contributed to the win.”
The women will take a bye this week before challenging Harvard again on Saturday, Jan. 24 at Leede Arena as the first of its seven home games this conference season. The matchup will begin at 6 p.m.