Women’s basketball splits weekend against Columbia and Cornell

by Boyd Bragg | 2/17/20 2:15am

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The Big Green stopped a six-game losing streak with a road win over Cornell on Saturday.

by Lorraine Liu / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

The women’s basketball team split games this weekend against Columbia University and Cornell University in two hard fought road battles. Despite falling to the Lions 73-63 on Friday, the Big Green ended its six-game losing skid on Saturday with a 67-65 win over the Big Red as Elle Louie ’21 nailed a game-winning jumper with 13 seconds to go. 

A consistent problem for the team this season has been its struggle to start the game effectively. Dartmouth’s slow shooting in the first 10 minutes of the game often sets the team back and creates an insurmountable deficit for the Big Green. 

This trend continued Friday night on the road against Columbia. After going down 10-0 for the start of the game, Dartmouth once again found itself in the position of playing catch-up. Louie put her team on the scoring sheet with 5:25 left in the first quarter; however, Columbia dominated the first quarter overall and led 18-8 going into the second. 

The Lions started the second quarter in similar fashion to their first quarter performance, opening up with strong shooting and relentless full court defense. Columbia’s momentum in the second quarter was interrupted by a 3-pointer by Annie McKenna ’20, as both teams went on spurts of scoring until the second quarter concluded, and Dartmouth ended the first half down 42-27. 

Foul trouble for the Big Green put Columbia on the line throughout the first half. The Lions went 16 for 17 from the free throw line, compared just 2 for 4 for the Big Green. 

In the second half, Dartmouth found success in attacking Columbia’s defense and getting out in transition. Louie once again started off scoring for the Big Green with a layup of her own. Dartmouth also consistently changed defenses against Columbia in the second half. 

“Changing up defenses changes up the rhythm of the game,” said head coach Belle Koclanes. 

Dartmouth seemed to find buckets in a promising comeback, but Columbia always had answers. At the 7:52 mark in the fourth quarter, Katie Douglas ’22 got the Big Green to within eight on a three-point play, but this was the closest Dartmouth came in cutting the deficit. 

Entering the second game of the trip, Dartmouth had to find a solution to their first-quarter struggles. 

“This team fights, but it’s fighting for 40 and being able to put the ball in the basket,” Koclanes said. “That has been our focus.” 

The second game of the weekend proved to be a different story than the first. After suffering a 73-63 defeat, the Big Green’s energy late in the first quarter was too much for Cornell to handle. Both teams started the game off slow, as the two teams tried to find their pace and rhythm. Tied 6-6, Dartmouth went on a 9-2 run to end the quarter up 17-8. The hot start was encouraging for a team that typically starts playing at a high level in the second half. 

The intensity of the Big Green continued to start the second quarter. The team extended its lead to 26-10 until Cornell paused the game with a timeout. Cornell implemented a full court press, similar to Columbia, which suffocated Dartmouth’s offense. In the remaining eight minutes of the second quarter, Dartmouth only put up three points compared to Cornell’s 17. The half ended with Dartmouth up 29-27. 

In the third quarter, Dartmouth gave up the lead and allowed Cornell to get out in transition by turning the ball over. The team ended the game with 27 turnovers on the night, a stat that is uncharacteristic for the Big Green, which is averaging 17.4 turnovers per game after Saturday night. 

With seven minutes left in the game, Dartmouth trailed by 10. But the Big Green fought back and went on a 15-5 run leading up to the final 30 seconds of regulation. Two clutch shots at the 1:22 and 0:13 marks by Louie and a pair of Paula Lenart ’20 free throws guided the Big Green to victory. Dartmouth had five players score double figures in a tremendous offensive performance, including Douglas, Louie, McKenna, Jimena Abejon ’22 and Anna Luce ’21. The Big Green shot 61.4 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from the 3-point arc. 

McKenna, who had to leave the game due to an injury but came back on the floor late in the game, praised the team’s comeback effort. 

“This game, compared to others, we were down late but we all had confidence that we were going to win this game,” McKenna said.

The Big Green look to build on this win next Friday and Saturday as it takes on the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University — the top two teams in the Ivy League standings. The road matchups will be a true test to Dartmouth, as Princeton has gained national attention by being ranked No. 25 in the nation and a projected No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

But Koclanes is optimistic about the Dartmouth’s chances going into next weekend.

“Anyone can beat anyone on any given night,” Koclanes said. “We are going to keep focusing on our individual improvement and collective improvement.”