Hanover — Exciting play after intermission on Saturday couldn’t prevent the Dartmouth College women’s basketball team from falling to archrival Harvard, 70-61, and dropping to 0-2 in Ivy League play. The Big Green had an announced Leede Arena crowd of 877 cheering and stomping its feet when it surged into the lead during the third quarter, but the Crimson pulled away to run its record to 14-1.
Dartmouth, which lost to Harvard by five points during the teams’ league opener two weeks ago, was down seven points with nine minutes remaining Saturday. The hosts pulled to within two points a minute later before succumbing. Columbia and Cornell visit next weekend in what’s now a big weekend for the Big Green (5-10).
“There was major improvement from our first Harvard game to the second,” said sophomore guard Cy Lippold. “We just have to take the lessons we learned from them into the next game.”
Among those lessons: taking care of the basketball will keep you close. Dartmouth committed a season-low seven turnovers and dished out 14 assists. Also, post play is vital, an area in which the Big Green shined, getting a career-high 18 points and 11 rebounds from sophomore forward Isalys Quinones for her fourth collegiate double-double. Junior forward Olivia Smith had 14 points and seven boards.
Unfortunately for Dartmouth, its guard play was not so strong. Kate Letkewicz had nine points and five rebounds in 33 minutes, but Fanni Szabo managed just two points in 31 minutes. and the three-woman point guard combo of starter Annie McKenna, Amber Mixon and Lippold had 11 points, five by Lippold during only five minutes of play. The hosts hit four of 20 attempts from 3-point range as well.
Dartmouth trailed, 13-12, after a quarter, then bombed during the second stanza, making just two of 13 field-goal attempts and entering halftime down by nine points.
“We always try to keep a couple of quick-hit plays in our back pocket so we can get a layup, but even those we weren’t able to execute,” coach Belle Koclanes said. “I was proud of how we responded in the third quarter, though. Ice and Olivia were able to attack Harvard for us.
“Ice has just scratched the surface and I have to remind myself that she’s still developing. You’re starting to see all the time she and Olivia have put into their games.”
Dartmouth led, 39-38, with four minutes remaining in the third quarter before Harvard embarked on an 8-0 run. The Big Green pulled to within 46-44 early in the final stanza only to see the Crimson score the next nine points during a two-minute stretch.
“There were back-to-back possessions where we needed better effort on our transition defense because they got fast-break layups and we had to call time out,” Lippold said.
Said Koclanes: “We took early shots in the shot clock and were one-and-done. I’d love to have those couple of possessions back, because we built a hole to climb out of the rest of the fourth quarter.”
Koclanes was pleased her team had only two fewer rebounds than Harvard, at 40-38. However, Dartmouth took only nine free throws, making seven. The Crimson connected on 13-of-21 from the charity stripe.
“Harvard’s bread and butter is crashing the offensive boards and creating another possession,” Koclanes said. “They had 22 more possessions than us the first game but it wasn’t nearly that big a difference tonight.”
Harvard received 17 points from guard Katie Benzan, 13 points from backcourt mate Madeline Raster and 10 points and eight rebounds from forward Destiny Nunley. The Crimson’s lone loss came opening night at Minnesota.
“Harvard is probably one of the top teams in the Ivies,” Lippold said. “Being that close to them at the end shows what we can do in the rest of our conference games.”
Perhaps, but it’s looking like a tough conference. Princeton, winner of five Ancient Eight crowns since 2010, is 7-9 overall and 1-2 in league play. Pennsylvania, Harvard and Cornell are each undefeated in Ivy action and Brown is 11-5 and 2-1. Columbia is 0-2 in league play but 10-5 overall.
The Ivy League is ninth out of 32 groupings in conference RPI and this year will debut a four-team postseason tournament at Penn’s historic Palestra arena.
“The league is wide open,” Koclanes said. “You have to focus one game at a time but having the tournament is awesome. Basketball is a tournament sport and I’ve always been supportive of our league having one.”
Notes: Harvard freshman Jeannie Boehm is the sister of former Dartmouth men’s forward and 1,000-point scorer Connor Boehm. She had eight points Saturday and is averaging 7.7 per game. … Lippold is the third of five children in her Pennsylvania family. The others are brothers Cayne, Coree and Ceph and sister Cevyn. … Koclanes said one of her team’s goals each game is to have fewer than 12 turnovers. Saturday was the third time it’s been accomplished this season. … Harvard outscored Dartmouth in the paint, 30-28, and had 11 second-change points to the Big Green’s four.
Tris Wykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3227.