Dartmouth Basketball Showing Its Age
Dartmouth College guard Jordyn Turner (4) works to evade the defense of two Hartford Hawks yesterday, including Daphne Elliot (2), during the Big Green’s 67-52 nonconference loss at Leede Arena. Turner did not score in seven minutes of playing time. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth center Tia Dawson (5) rises for a shot over Hartford’s Alex Hall (10). (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth College point guard Nicola Zimmer. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — Not so long ago, the idea of the Dartmouth College women’s basketball team losing seven consecutive games, even during a difficult, nonconference schedule, would have strained credulity. The Big Green won Ivy League titles, made NCAA tournament appearances and was one of the Northeast’s flagship programs.
These are different times for coach Chris Wielgus and her program, however. In her 28th year at the Dartmouth helm, Wielgus has the second-youngest roster among Division I teams and has had to live with her troops taking baby steps, regardless of the score. The Big Green endured a 13-game losing streak last winter, the longest in program history.
Yesterday’s result, a 67-52 loss to visiting Hartford, was yet another example. The Big Green suffered its seventh straight setback while allowing the Hawks to hit 56 percent of their field-goal attempts. Hartford (7-2) forced 20 turnovers and the hosts reached the foul line just seven times, although they made each of those attempts.
The silver lining? Well, Dartmouth pulled within nine points with 12 minutes remaining and sophomore center Tia Dawson had a fine afternoon, hitting six out of nine shots from the floor and finishing with a season-high 14 points, nine rebounds and four steals. Faziah Steen also had 14 points, but hit only one of her five attempts from beyond the 3-point line.
“I was proud of them for fighting back against a very physical, experienced and deep team,” said Wielgus, whose squad was outscored 8-0 after it got within 52-43. Hartford “got some easy buckets quickly — too quickly. (Steen) getting in foul trouble was a bit of a problem for us, but I was proud of our halftime adjustment and the fact that we got the ball inside.”
Steen thought she and fellow guards Nicola Zimmer and Kamala Thompson could have pushed even more balls into the post. Once the Hawks began double-teaming Dawson, however, the temptation to shoot from outside was too much.
“We were getting open shots on the kick-out (passes), but that took us away from what was working for us,” said Steen, who played with a taped-up elbow after previously hyperextending the joint. “Tia was great on the blocks, and we were doing well with getting her the ball.”
Dartmouth trailed 40-23 at halftime and the Hawks rested several starters after the intermission, with only one playing more than 23 minutes. Hall, a product of Pembroke, N.H., and Amber Bepko each had 13 points. The Big Green received eight points from Abbey Schmitt and seven from Milica Toskovic, but the former was only 3-of-12 from the floor.
Hartford, which won 19 games and reached the Women’s National Invitational Tournament last season, relied heavily on offensive screens and Wielgus said her troops struggled with sliding past or fighting through those body blocks.
“They were able to slip the screens, and we weren’t ready for it,” the coach said. “When we put in some new, young kids, they don’t even know what a slip really is.
“We wish that we were further along at this time, but I think we’re further along this year than we have been in many years. It should play itself out in the Ivy League, but I’m hoping it plays itself out (Saturday) at Florida International. I don’t like to look beyond the next game.”
Dartmouth (1-7) features seven freshmen and four sophomores on its 14-woman roster, but Steen agreed with Wielgus that the team is better than it was a year ago. The Big Green was 2-6 after eight games last winter and finished 6-22 overall and 4-10 in league play.
“We’re definitely more talented this year, and the fact that we have (experienced) sophomores helps a lot,” Steen said. “We need more of a contribution from the bench, whether someone’s in for a minute or 10 minutes, but we work better as a team that we did last year, especially considering that we’re younger.
“We just have to keep our morale up and know that, by January, we’re gong to be way better than we are now.”
Notes: Hartford is coached by former All-American guard and University of Connecticut graduate Jennifer Rizzotti, who has won five America East Conference titles during 13 previous seasons with the program. … Hartford leads the teams’ series 11-6 and has won their last eight meetings. Dartmouth last beat the Hawks in 2002. … Hartford returned all five starters and four seniors from last season’s team. … Dartmouth is 51-73 against America East foes. … The Big Green has won just two home games since the end of the 2010-11 season. … Florida International is 3-4.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.