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Up and Down Loss

Big Green Shows Spark Before Losing

Dartmouth College point guard Nicola Zimmer slides across the Leede Arena floor last night in pursuit of Cornell's Shelby Lyman, who sits with the ball out of bounds. The Big Green lost 53-48, its seventh consecutive setback and the Big Red's first victory in five games. Valley News - Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College point guard Nicola Zimmer slides across the Leede Arena floor last night in pursuit of Cornell's Shelby Lyman, who sits with the ball out of bounds. The Big Green lost 53-48, its seventh consecutive setback and the Big Red's first victory in five games. Valley News - Tris Wykes

Hanover — A slow start, flashes of brilliance in the middle and a disappointing fade at the end.

Last night’s 53-45 loss to Cornell, in a game postponed from Feb. 9 because of last month’s winter storm, was a microcosm of the 2012-13 season for the Dartmouth women’s basketball team, which was 1-9 in early January and then won five of six games before dropping its last seven.

Dartmouth is now 6-20 overall and 4-8 in the Ivy League, while Cornell is 12-14 and 4-8 in the conference.

The slow start in the final home game of the season: Five Big Green possessions short-circuited by turnovers without getting off a shot allowed a wobbling opponent that had lost eight of its previous nine games to get its confidence in a foreign gym and build a 11-3 lead after almost seven minutes of play.

The flashes of brilliance: Solid defense that led to Cornell missing 14 of 15 shots over a span of almost nine minutes in the first half and then 13 of 14 attempts over a span of about 11 minutes in the second half brought Dartmouth a 42-37 lead with 4:44 left.

The fade at the end: Like quicksilver the solid defense suddenly disappeared as the Red became the red hot, nailing five consecutive shots including a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers by Allison Bockrath and Allyson DiMagno (27 points) on consecutive trips up the floor to trigger a 16-3 finish.

“I think that we got a little bit exhausted down the stretch,” Dartmouth coach Chris Wielgus said after a lengthy locker room talk with her team.

“I think our defense was good, but we have to be able to sustain it. They are young, but that is not an excuse. We just have trouble putting it away and finishing.”

Guard Faziah Steen, the lone senior playing in her final home game, led the Big Green with 12 points, while sophomore forward Abbey Schmidt chipped in 11 points and six rebounds. Freshman forward Lakin Roland, the Ivy League Rookie of the Week after a 20-point, 12-rebound game against Princeton on Saturday, led both teams with 11 rebounds, but was held to four points. Sophomore guard Kamala Thompson had 10 rebounds, but managed just two points.

While conceding that her team left a lot on the floor in Saturday night’s hard-fought loss to Ivy League powerhouse Princeton, Steen wasn’t about to use that as a defense for a less-stellar performance by the Big Green.

“Princeton was a factor, but we also have to consider that Cornell played on the weekend as well,” she said. “We’re both equally as tired so you can’t really use that as an excuse.

“Cornell just came out with a lot more energy than we did. They made all the hustle plays. They got their hands on a lot of balls. They got a lot of offensive rebounds and were able to run the shot clock again and get a good shot. They were diving on the floors and I don’t think we matched that.”

Steen, who moved past Sophia Neely and into eighth place on the all-time Dartmouth scoring list with 1,313 points, was honored before Saturday night’s loss and hoped for a different outcome to her final home game.

“It’s hard,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed playing in this gym because we have such a good fan base. It hasn’t really hit me yet because we still have two more games and we still have a chance to finish on a good note if we play cohesively this weekend.”

That’s the note Wielgus sounded in her postgame talk with the Big Green.

“My message was that it is not over,” she said. “There can be no pity party. I know they have a lot of reasons and there are a lot of excuses with exams and this and that, but the fact of the matter is, it’s the same for everyone else in the Ivy League.

“No excuses. The quality of play was not what we expected and they are capable of and we have to do better this weekend.”

Steen is optimistic that better times are ahead. Not just Friday at Cornell and Saturday at Columbia, but over the next few years.

“We kind of had a slump toward the end of the year but at the beginning of the Ivy League season we played the way you have to in order to win the conference,” she said. “During my senior night I told the team that I look forward to seeing them bring in some banners in the next couple of seasons because they are very capable of it if they use the experience they got this year, work hard to improve and play the way they can.

“The record this year is not indicative of the kind of improvement I’ve seen since September. It’s vastly different and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they use the experience they go this year to their advantage.”

Notes: Dartmouth shot a healthy 44.0 percent from the field in the first half, but slipped to 28.6 percent after the break. … Cornell got 8-of-12 (66.7 percent) shooting from DiMagno but just 11-of-47 (23.4 percent) from everyone else.