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The Dartmouth
April 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

First-place Columbia defeats women’s basketball

The Big Green is still searching for its first conference win of the season.

emma koch basketball.jpeg

The women’s basketball team fell to Columbia University 79-50 on Saturday, Jan. 28, marking the Big Green’s seventh conference loss. 

The team faced a tough challenge against the Lions as Columbia currently leads the Ivy League with an Ivy record of 6-1. With recent illnesses and injuries, the Big Green players were forced to transform their strategy for this game. Head Coach Adrienne Shibles said she believes that the team’s leadership has cultivated a “next woman up” mentality in response to these challenges. 

“Everyone's looking to step up and fill the void of the people that might not be able to compete this weekend. I think that's been a necessary shift in our preparation [for upcoming games],” Shibles said. “We've had a little rough patch of adversity, so our preparation has to be that much more acute and focused and they're really bringing that.” 

Columbia quickly pursued the lead in Saturday’s game with a 45-25 lead by halftime. In the first quarter, Dartmouth fought hard to maintain a short distance from the Lions. Grace Niekelski ’25 scored a three-pointer to bring the score to 10-13, the closest difference of the game. Emma Koch ’23 said that the first quarter ultimately set the tone for the rest of the match. 

“We had a really tough time starting, and we kind of dug ourselves a hole that was hard to get out of,” Koch said. “I think we still fought the rest of the game even though there was a pretty big point deficit.”

In the second quarter, the team continued its efforts to stop Columbia’s momentum. Mia Curtis ’24 opened the quarter with a three-pointer, allowing her to score the team-high of 12 points. The Big Green maintained its defense and did not allow Columbia to score until the 6:42 minute mark. Even with these successes, the Lions led by 20 points at the end of the second quarter. Koch said that the team needs to improve its defense on key players on the court. 

“One thing that we can work on, which we've been talking about the whole season, is stopping the players that are hot,” Koch said. “There were a couple girls that definitely had a lot of points against us and I don't think we recognized that as soon as we could. [We just need to] pay extra attention to them during the game.” 

Dartmouth was unable to recover and fell to the Lions. Despite the loss, the team focused on some of its strengths that emerged  on the court. For the first time since the 2017-18 season, the women’s basketball team went 10-for-10 on the free throw line. Mekkena Boyd ’24 went 6-for-6 in order to secure this team victory. Boyd said that the energy in the gym and of the team contributed to these successes.

“We are a team that sticks together and we don’t turn on each other when adversity hits. It was a packed gym and there was a lot of energy,” Boyd said. “We stayed together and celebrated our little wins as the game proceeded, and [that’s] something that I never take for granted.” 

Despite the 0-7 conference and overall 2-19 record, this season has been characterized by immense growth for the players, Shibles said. She highlighted the improvements in the team’s offense and shooting percentage. 

“I feel that we have more weapons this year and a more balanced scoring attack, so that's really benefited our program,” Shibles said. “ … I wouldn't say that we aren't particularly strong yet in any area, but we are working a lot on taking care of the basketball, limiting turnovers, defensive communication and rebounding.” 

Koch said that strong team dynamics have allowed the Big Green to improve its chemistry. 

“I think that a lot of other teams with the record we have…don't have a really close team dynamic, [so] there's going to be a lot of other problems,” Koch said. “The sport is supposed to be fun — and I think people lose sight of that. We're always having fun with our friends out there.”

Despite this growth, the team recognizes target areas of improvement. Boyd said that the team has struggled for consistency and cohesiveness on the court. 

“In a lot of our games, we get good looks, we play decent strings of defense and offense, but it's really just about consistency and putting it all together for 40 minutes,” Boyd said. “That’s something that we’ve been working on since the beginning of the season, and I wouldn’t necessarily have it to the fullest extent yet.”

Shibles said that the team hopes to learn from this loss, particularly in looking to build a more experienced team in the coming years. 

“I really hope to take away growth, which we've already made, but we're not stopping here. We're continuing to get that 1% better every day,” Shibles said. “... We're taking away experience, we're taking away growth and we're taking away improvement in our team culture.”

Dartmouth travels to Brown University on Friday, Feb. 3 and faces Yale University the following day for the remainder of their four-game road stretch.