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Undefeated Syracuse Pulls Away From Dartmouth 

  • Dartmouth’s Faziah Steen gets off a pass before two Syracuse defenders converge on her during the Big Green’s 91-64 loss at Leede Arena in Hanover last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Dartmouth’s Faziah Steen gets off a pass before two Syracuse defenders converge on her during the Big Green’s 91-64 loss at Leede Arena in Hanover last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth's Faziah Steen lobs a shot around Syracuse's Cornelia Fondren during Dartmouth's 91 - 64 loss. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Dartmouth's Faziah Steen lobs a shot around Syracuse's Cornelia Fondren during Dartmouth's 91 - 64 loss. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth’s Faziah Steen gets off a pass before two Syracuse defenders converge on her during the Big Green’s 91-64 loss at Leede Arena in Hanover last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Dartmouth's Faziah Steen lobs a shot around Syracuse's Cornelia Fondren during Dartmouth's 91 - 64 loss. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Hanover — The Syracuse women’s basketball team that invaded Leede Arena last night featured a pair of freshmen starters who earned McDonald’s All-American honors during their high school careers. After leading Dartmouth by only four points at halftime, the undefeated Orange made an unhappy meal out of the Big Green, eating the hosts up inside en route to a 91-64 nonconference victory.

Dartmouth was outscored 46-16 in the paint and surrendered 27 points to center Kayla Alexander, who played 17 of her 26 minutes in the first half. The Orange, which pushed its lead to 20 points just six minutes after halftime, improved to 7-0, while the Big Green lost for the fourth consecutive outing and fell to 1-4.

“Kayla Alexander is one of the better post players in the country, and we knew it coming in,’’ said Dartmouth coach Chris Wielgus. “But I’m really proud of how our kids went at her, and that was our goal. She may block your shot, but you’re going to learn from it and you’re not backing down. And I don’t think we did.’’

Alexander, a 6-foot-4 junior from Ontario who entered the evening as the blocks leader among NCAA Division I players, had six of them in the contest and added six rebounds. She hit 11-of-14 field-goal attempts, and her supporting cast included former McDonald’s All-Americans Brianna Banks, who had 13 points, and Brittney Sykes, who had four points and six rebounds.

“We were just trying to go up strong and help each other out a lot defensively, but sometimes there’s just nothing you can do if they’re bigger than you,’’ Dartmouth forward Abbey Schmitt said. “We were able to get the ball inside and try to drive on them to get them in foul trouble, which didn’t really work.’’

Dartmouth’s only lead was at 9-8, but the Big Green hung tough until intermission, making 4-of-6 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc and hitting on 43 percent of its overall field-goal attempts. Schmitt said her team was helped by an ability to break the Orange’s press during the first half, mainly by using long passes from the backcourt. After halftime, however, the visitors switched from a 2-1-2 version of that defense to a 1-2-2, Wielgu said s.

“We didn’t handle it well,’’ said the coach, whose squad committed 20 turnovers. “We haven’t seen much of the 1-2-2 this season, and we weren’t prepared and it bothered us.’’

Schmitt led Dartmouth with 18 points and added five rebounds. The sophomore from suburban Chicago hasn’t played regularly since her junior year of high school because of two knee surgeries, but has started all five games this season. She leads the Big Green with an average of nine rebounds per game and is second at 11.8 points per contest.

“I was happily surprised with how things have turned out,’’ said Schmitt, who played pickup games with the Northwestern women’s team last summer. “Last year my knee was swollen all the time, but now it’s a lot better. I did some really good (physical therapy) over the summer and it just hurts a little sometimes now, but not nearly as bad as it did.’’

Wielgus’ teams typically take their lumps in the early going, a byproduct of aggressive scheduling. Last night was no different, and the veteran bench boss said Dartmouth will be better for the experience.

“We were able to hang with them for an entire half and they put pressure on us for the entire game and we managed to bring (the ball) through,’’ she said. “We wish we had won and we wish we’d had a better second half, but Syracuse is a top (30) team that’s going to move up quickly.’’

Dartmouth’s Nicola Zimmer had 15 points and Faziah Steen had 13. Tia Dawson had five points and seven rebounds.

Notes: In another Ivy League-Big East Conference matchup last night, Princeton beat Rutgers 71-55. Princeton is widely expected to win the Ancient Eight, while Rutgers was picked to finish fifth in the Big East coaches’ preseason poll. Syracuse was picked to finish seventh in the 15-team league… Dartmouth’s next game is Sunday in Norfolk, Va., against Old Dominion (4-0). Three days later, the Big Green visits New Hampshire (3-2), which has beaten Ivy opponents Yale and Cornell, but has lost to Harvard. After that, Hartford (5-1) comes to Leede on Dec. 9… Syracuse has won at least 22 games and played in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament in each of the past three seasons. The Orange, whose most recent recruiting class was ranked fifth by ESPN, last made the NCAA tournament in 2008… Alexander has been the Big East blocks leader each of the last two seasons.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.