Women’s basketball extends skid to five losses

by Alexander Agadjanian | 2/8/15 6:01pm

After the women’s basketball team fell to three Ivy League competitors in a row, this weekend of home games only prolonged its struggles. Losing to Yale University 60-46 and Brown University 50-47 to extend its losing streak to five, the Big Green will now search for victory away from Leede Arena.

On Friday, Dartmouth and Yale both suffered cold shooting at the start of the contest. After seven misses between the two teams, the Bulldogs’ Tamara Simpson attacked the hoop and connected for a layup and the first basket of the game almost two-and-a-half minutes into play. Although it kept pace early on, the Big Green suffered from a poor shot selection in its half-court offense, a tendency that has fueled its recent slump.

The Big Green saw another of its weaknesses exploited — defending drives into the paint, on which Yale scored its first six points of the game. After grabbing a two-point lead at the 15:32 mark, the Bulldogs never looked back, maintaining the lead through the night.

When Yale switched its offensive focus towards attempting more three-point shots, it managed to pull further away from the Big Green. Beginning at the 14:51 mark, the visitors launched four three-pointers in under two minutes, two of which fell in the basket. Over the next five minutes, Yale sank two more shots from beyond the arc that helped produce a 26-8 lead with eight minutes left in the first half. The Bulldogs finished the half 5-for-9 from long range, eclipsing their 3.65 season average per game and proving critical for distancing themselves from Dartmouth.

The three-point shots and easy looks in the restricted area — making 12 points in the paint -— fueled a dominant first half for Yale, who enjoyed a 37-23 lead going into the locker room. Five different Bulldogs scored at least five points, with guard Mary Ann Santucci paving the way as the sole scorer in double-digits with 10.

Dartmouth’s Fanni Szabo ’17 led the team in the first half with nine points, but forced several shots en route to a poor 4-11 field goal outing. Her shooting woes reflected her team’s as well, as the Big Green collectively shot only 25.9 percent in the first 20 minutes, a trend that would persist in the next half.

The second half would commence almost identical to the first, as the teams waited nearly two-and-a-half minutes before a Yale basket broke the drought. The early-going in the second half provided another glimpse into the potential of Big Green point guard Amber Mixon ’18. The freshman earned a trip to the line a few minutes in, marking the second time she drew contact after driving into the paint in as many tries. The play showed the impact she consistently creates in attacking the rim and pointed to Mixon’s conspicuous underuse on offense, especially amidst a recent losing streak fraught with offensive lethargy.

While the Bulldogs continued to preserve their double-digit lead well into the second half, another positive sign for Dartmouth became apparent — the resurgence of Lakin Roland ’16. After a frustrating prior three games, she returned against Yale with a strong first half that carried over to the second. She finished with 14 points on 3-9 shooting, along with seven rebounds and three assists, all of which hovered around her season averages.

“I think sometimes shots go in, sometimes they don’t. Luckily today a couple of them did,” Roland said of her play. “And also that’s just teammates setting me up to succeed, getting me the ball when I’m in a scoring position.”

At the 12:48 mark, the Big Green cut the deficit into single-digits at 43-34 after a 7-2 run, but the newfound offensive productivity would quickly wane. Several offensive rebounds by Yale and foul trouble that forced top-scorer in Szabo to sit out for 10 minutes precluded Dartmouth’s comeback efforts.

The game would end in 14-point victory for Yale, who improved to a perfect 5-0 record in Ivy League play before losing to Harvard the next day. Yale had a solid all-around performance with three players scoring at least 12 points, but the Bulldogs capitalized more so on what the home team didn’t do well. A 26 percentage shooting night with a total of 13 field goals made — far below Dartmouth’s 20.7 season average — and a negative five turnover margin doomed the Big Green as it extended its losing streak to four.

“I’m really disappointed in our effort tonight,” head coach Belle Koclanes said. “I was excited for a new Friday. Last Friday we came out and we had a tough start, kind of a lull at the beginning, and the same deal again tonight. We prepared for the physicality that Yale brings [in practice]. We knew what was coming, so I was disappointed, particularly in the first half.”

Unfortunately for the Big Green, its hardships would not cease against Brown, a middle-of-the-pack Ivy League squad. The same deficiencies on the offensive and defensive ends would foil Dartmouth’s chance at a rebound once again.

The opening minutes of Saturday’s matchup featured a clumsy string of forced shots and turnovers by the Big Green. More than 10 minutes into the game, however, Dartmouth gained a 17-9 lead. It marked the first time in weeks that Dartmouth maintained a decisive advantage for much of the first half, as it held the upper side of the scoreboard for more than three-quarters of the period. Roland, building on her recent revival, displayed the most creativity and energy for her team and finished the first 20 minutes with eight points and six rebounds.

If anything could hamper the Big Green’s progress early on, foul trouble would fit the bill. Halfway through the first half, Szabo collected two fouls in under two minutes that forced Coach Koclanes to send her to the bench for the rest of the half, proving to be one of the critical developments in the entire game. While Szabo’s later shooting woes could be attributable to her recent slump, foul trouble likely derailed the sophomore’s rhythm.

Her teammates encountered a similar fate, as questionable calls riled up the home crowd and sent Brown into the bonus situation at only the 9:43 mark. A duration of 33 seconds that saw four calls on Dartmouth highlighted the team’s fouling propensity, as the Big Green accrued 11 in the first half.

The visiting Bears would rattle off a dominant stretch that changed the game for good. In response to a Roland three-pointer, Brown would embark on a powerful 10-0 run to seize a 23-20 lead. Eight of the points came from layups, in addition to two made free throws, all of which stemmed from penetrations into the paint.

This style of Brown’s attack — only two of its first-half points came outside of the paint and away from the free throw line — keyed a 25-22 advantage at the break. Turnover issues only further plagued the Big Green’s effort, as Dartmouth had 18 — 11 of which came in the final 10 minutes of the half when the lead crumbled — compared to Brown’s 10 total.

The Bears came out stronger in the second half, still relying on the same offensive tactic of pounding the low block. After a Kate Letkewicz ’18 three-ball cut Brown’s lead to 33-30, Brown responded by outscoring the home team 10-0 in the next four-and-a-half minutes. The spurt opened up a 43-30 edge, one that seemed to be definitive.

Yet, Dartmouth reacted with a sense of urgency for the rest of the game, ultimately making the contest go down to the wire. Starting with a Roland lay-in to score for the first time in more than five minutes, the Big Green would start an 11-0 run of its own to make the score 43-41. After two Brown free throws, Mixon hit a three, pulling the Big Green within one point of its opposition with just under three minutes left to play.

With less than 30 seconds left, Dartmouth found itself down 46-44. Mixon had a relatively open look from downtown but missed the three-pointer that would have put Dartmouth ahead. While Tia Dawson ’15 grabbed a rebound off the miss, a chaotic possession ensued and Roland turned the ball over near the baseline. Down two with 13 seconds left, the Big Green had to foul.

After Brown senior Sophie Bikofsky converted both foul shots, Szabo gave her team another chance with a three that cut the deficit to 48-47. Two more Brown free throws topped off the close finish, and the visitors left Leede Arena with a 50-47 victory.

The loss did not deter Roland as she continues to recapture her strong early-season form. The junior finished with an efficient 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting and nine rebounds. As Roland returns to form, however, her teammate Szabo seems to have entered a skid herself, as the sophomore struggled again with a 6-for-20 shooting performance from the field.

At the end of the game, Dartmouth and Brown both posted substandard shooting percentages, 30.2 and 32.8 respectively. The Bears, led by Ellise Sharpe’s 19 points, did just enough to win, and benefited heavily from unyielding defensive play. 17 total steals for Brown paved the way to forcing 29 Big Green turnovers.

“I think it was a hard-fought match, both teams [were] clearly tired from last night’s games,” Brown head coach Sarah Behn said. “We had a little lead too early in the second half and then did some good things in the last couple of minutes. But Dartmouth’s a great team, they’ve got great size, they can shoot the ball, I think they went through a stretch where they missed more shots than they normally do. It could’ve gone either way but I think our pressure was a key to the victory.”

The need to address a pressing defensive flaw became even more pronounced on Saturday. Brown generated all but four of its 50 total points from drives into the restricted area to produce easy looks near the rim — 28 points in the paint and 18 converted free throws. Whether it’s introducing greater help defense or waiting for Dawson’s return to full health — who despite leg injuries, managed an astounding 10 rebounds and three blocks in only 13 minutes of play — Dartmouth must solve this problem as it proceeds in its conference slate.