Dartmouth Feeling Sunny
Big Green Devours Lions for Fourth Straight Win
Dartmouth’s Faziah Steen, right, wrestles for the ball with Columbia’s Amara Mbionwu last night during the teams’ Ivy League game at Leede Arena. (Valley News — Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth’s Milica Toskovic, left, and Faziah Steen react to a foul called on a teammate during the second half of last night’s victory over Columbia at Leede Arena. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth’s Abbey Schmitt attempts a foul shot last night against Columbia. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — The weather outside may be frightful, but the past two weeks have been downright delightful for the Dartmouth College women’s basketball team. The Big Green eased past Columbia last night, 62-52, at Leede Arena for its fourth consecutive victory and its fifth in the last six games.
The Ivy League clash was originally to have been played Friday, but was pushed back roughly 24 hours because of snowy conditions throughout New England. Specifically, Harvard was unable to host Cornell on Friday, and the league didn’t want teams possibly playing their second game of the weekend against an opponent who had experienced a different amount of rest.
The plan, at least late last night, was that Harvard would host Cornell today. Dartmouth and Cornell, originally slated to meet last night and then rescheduled to play tonight, will now face off on a date to be determined.
“I guess we’re playing Cornell sometime in March, but I don’t know how it’s all going to work out,’’ said Dartmouth captain Faziah Steen, who had 13 points last night as her team improved to 6-13 overall and 4-1 in the Ivy League. “We’ve been trying to figure out if we are playing, or not playing, or do we have practice? We don’t know what’s going on until we get to the gym each day.”
Columbia (2-17, 0-5) pulled within four points with three minutes remaining, but Dartmouth scored the game’s last five points and posted its fourth consecutive victory over the Lions. The Big Green, which was 6-22 and 4-10 during an injury-plagued 2011-12 season, has also beaten Massachusetts, Harvard, Brown and Yale since Jan. 6.
“We had to learn how to win, and winning at UMass at the buzzer was very helpful with that,’’ Dartmouth coach Chris Wielgus said. “I also strongly believe the difficult, non-Ivy schedule has paid off for us in the league. We’re taking better shots at better times and we’re getting to the rim.”
Wielgus said that settling on a substitution pattern and structured roles for some players has also been a benefit. Steen is the scorer, and point guard Nicola Zimmer contributes points and assists and is relived by freshman Kaitana Martinez. Center Tia Dawson and guard Kamala Thompson specialize in rebounding and defense, while forward Lakin Roland has thrived coming off the bench.
Last night’s leading scorer was sophomore forward Abbey Schmitt, who had 17 points and 12 rebounds and is beginning to truly shine as an all-around performer after missing her freshman year with a knee injury. Dawson had 10 points and six boards and Zimmer had nine points.
“We know we can count on people to do what they’re supposed to do when they get in the game,’’ Steen said. “It’s definitely helped our morale and we’re more confident in ourselves and each other.
“Everything is starting to click. We’re playing team defense and it’s been fueling turnovers and fast-break points, which is something that wasn’t happening before.”
Dartmouth led 33-20 at halftime and by as many as 17 points during the second half. The winning streak has taken pressure off Wielgus and her troops, although the veteran bench boss isn’t inclined to gush about the turnaround. The Big Green is at Ivy leader Princeton (13-5, 4-0) on Friday.
“I’m a little softer on (the players) when they’re not doing well and I ratchet up the intensity when we are,’’ the coach said. “I have higher expectations now.”
Notes: Dartmouth made 64 percent of its field-goal attempts during the first half and 52 percent for the game. It was the Big Green’s third consecutive contest making at least 40 percent of its shots from the floor. … Freshman forward Daisy Jordan watched the game on crutches and Wielgus said the Massachusetts native is out for the season with a knee injury. … Columbia coach Paul Nixon is 65-131 in eight seasons with the Lions. … Princeton is 7-0 at home this season. … Dartmouth’s men’s basketball team will play at Cornell at noon today. The Big Green was to have challenged the Big Red last night, but couldn’t leave the New York City area after Friday night’s victory at Columbia because of the weather. The team bus made it to Ithaca, N.Y. at 4 p.m. yesterday.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.