Women’s basketball extends win streak to four games

by Ashley DuPuis | 2/22/16 6:30pm

The women’s basketball team extended its win streak to four games, beating Cornell University 60-52 and Columbia University 63-53 at home this past weekend. The weekend’s victories improve the Big Green’s record to 11-15 overall and 6-4 in league.

On Friday night, Dartmouth came out strong against Cornell (13-11, 5-5 Ivy), taking an early lead within minutes of tip-off. Lakin Roland ’16 kicked off the Big Green’s attack on offense with a 3-pointer before the team rallied to unleash a 7-0 run midway through the quarter and take a 17-9 lead with over three minutes left in the first. Amber Mixon ’18 gave the Big Green a late quarter spark as well with a steal and subsequent fast break lay-up, improving the team’s lead to 10 points. The first quarter alone saw the home team earn six steals.

“In the first quarter we zoned them,” head coach Belle Koclanes said. “We didn’t really play a lot of zone the first time we played Cornell. This time around we said we need to do something different so we went zone.”

The second quarter reflected the same strong offensive game of the first for Dartmouth. The half stayed in Dartmouth’s control until Cornell ended the quarter on an 7-0 run with 4:09 remaining in the half. Dartmouth, however, still remained in the lead 37-30.

“Amber’s defense will always be able to generate offense for herself and you saw that here tonight,” Koclanes said. “She is just getting more and more confident. She’s capable of getting to that rim and we’re going to keep working at it.”

Dartmouth managed to hold the lead over the Big Red throughout the third quarter, with three Dartmouth players reaching double figures in the quarter. Cornell fought back in the fourth quarter, closing the gap to three points with less than two minutes remaining on a 3-pointer by Megan LeDuc to make the score 55-52.

Still, the Big Green managed to hold on to its lead and keep Cornell scoreless for the remainder of the game. A late jumper by Roland forced the Big Red to foul for the remainder of the game and gave Dartmouth a crucial basket, while Mixon knocked down some late free throws to seal the victory for the home team.

Dartmouth’s performance against Cornell marked a departure from their play throughout the season. Where once the team’s play was distinguished by a few strong solo performances, this match-up versus the Big Red saw a team effort, and strong play throughout their line-up, as evidenced by the team’s 52.2 percent shooting percentage from the field.

“Defensively we got in passing lanes and offensively we made shots,” Koclanes said. “The defense is always better when your offense is on point.”

Roland contributed 18 points and six rebounds. Kate Letkewicz ’18 posted an impressive 16 points and Fanni Szabo ’17 topped the night off with 11 points and eight rebounds. Mixon’s defensive work led to five steals, and she finished the night with seven points.

The Big Green continued to play well the next day, taking an early lead for the second night against another New York rival, Columbia (12-13, 1-9 Ivy) for the team’s annual Pink Game for breast cancer awareness. The night’s emphasis on breast cancer awareness has a very personal impact and connection for the team, as Big Green player Mixon lost her own mother to cancer.

“We fought this weekend, just like so many others [with cancer] are fighting,” Mixon said. “It was a big thing and special night with it being the pink weekend.”

By the end of the first, Dartmouth led the Lions by 10, with Letkewicz draining a 3 at the end of the quarter. Dartmouth began to stumble slightly in the second quarter when the Lions turned the tables and went on a 9-2 run, leaving the score 21-16.

With only 2:06 left to play in the first half Columbia’s persistence paid off by tying the score at 25. Columbia continued to put the Big Green on the defensive by taking a 4-point lead into halftime.

“We got lackadaisical in the first half after we got the early lead, so [at halftime Koclanes] just emphasized effort, and focusing on what was in our control,” Roland said.

The third quarter proved to be a game of tug of war between the two teams, until a shot from Letkewicz broke Columbia’s lead setting the Big Green off on an offensive assault. Mixon continued to be a defensive force for Dartmouth, stealing the ball from Columbia before feeding the ball to teammate Szabo under the rim improving the Dartmouth’s lead to 4-points with 9:23 left in the game.

Dartmouth continued to build off its regained lead in the fourth, with another steal from Mixon helping to seal the game in favor of the Big Green. The victory over Columbia marked the fourth game of the Big Green’s longest win streak this season. The win puts Dartmouth at fourth in the Ivy League standings.

“We’re focused on progress and developing each individual player and their skill sets every single day,” Koclanes said. “When we ask them to execute our offense at the highest level that’s our focus. It’s constant teaching day to day and within the game. They have been so coachable and we’re getting better.”

Roland and Letkewicz both recorded 20-plus point performances, with 24 and 20 points respectively. Letkewicz’s also secured her fourth double-double with 10 rebounds, with Roland picked up nine boards.

“[This weekend] we were performing more up to our potential, but we still have more to give,” Roland said. “We’re all on the same page, so that makes it easier for everyone to contribute.”

The Big Green will return to court for its final home weekend of the season facing Brown University on Friday at 7 p.m. and Yale University on Saturday at 6 p.m.