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In Defeat, Green Shows Progress

  • Dartmouth College women's basketball players, including Eve Zelinger, arm raised in center, cheer a Big Green basket during Monday night's 82-72 nonconference loss to visiting Providence.<br/>Valley News — Tris Wykes

    Dartmouth College women's basketball players, including Eve Zelinger, arm raised in center, cheer a Big Green basket during Monday night's 82-72 nonconference loss to visiting Providence.
    Valley News — Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth College forward Lakin Roland looks to pass Monday against the defense of Providence's Aliyah Miller. The Friars won the nonconference game, 82-72, at Leede Arena.<br/>Valley News — Tris Wykes

    Dartmouth College forward Lakin Roland looks to pass Monday against the defense of Providence's Aliyah Miller. The Friars won the nonconference game, 82-72, at Leede Arena.
    Valley News — Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth College women's basketball players, including Eve Zelinger, arm raised in center, cheer a Big Green basket during Monday night's 82-72 nonconference loss to visiting Providence.<br/>Valley News — Tris Wykes
  • Dartmouth College forward Lakin Roland looks to pass Monday against the defense of Providence's Aliyah Miller. The Friars won the nonconference game, 82-72, at Leede Arena.<br/>Valley News — Tris Wykes

Hanover — The Dartmouth College women’s basketball team lost, 82-72, to visiting Providence in a nonconference game Monday. There are continued signs, however, that the Big Green isn’t going to be as much of a pushover this season as it has been in recent campaigns.

Freshman guard Fanni Szabo was terrific once again, scoring 33 points despite shooting just 3-of-12 from the floor in the second half. Sophomore forward Lakin Roland had 10 points, and junior guard Kamala Thompson grabbed 12 rebounds as Dartmouth fell to 1-3.

The problem was that although the hosts made 43 percent of their field-goal attempts, they allowed Providence (3-1) to sink 50 percent of its attempts from the floor. Dartmouth cut an 18-point deficit to three with 10 minutes remaining but played defense with the strength of a wet paper bag.

“We couldn’t stop them, and they were getting easy buckets,” said junior guard Milica Toskovic, who had seven points. “We were trading baskets with them, and that’s not what we needed when we were trying to cut into their lead. Our defense has to improve a lot if we’re going to compete with better teams.”

First-year Dartmouth coach Belle Koclanes said her troops played weakly in transition, leading to Friars layups. Even when the Big Green did get back in time, it allowed Providence to reload. The visitors scored 23 points on second-chance efforts and 40 points in the paint.

“When they do pull up (to shoot), you have to box out and limit them to that shot only,’’ Koclanes said. “That’s what’s hurting us right now. We don’t want teams scoring 80 on us; we want them at 60 and below. So in the next few days we’re going to talk a lot about defense.”

Despite the loss and a sense that Dartmouth let its foe off the hook, there’s real optimism around the program these days. The Big Green isn’t going to add to its record 17 Ivy League championships this winter, but it looks like it’s going to put up a heck of a fight most nights.

“There’s a very good atmosphere on this team because of the coaching staff, and it’s been a fresh start for all of us,” said Toskovic, who endured consecutive 6-22 seasons her first two years on campus. “We’re excited to see what the change could spark, and maybe this could be the year we turn it around.”

Dartmouth’s post players got in early foul trouble Monday, including junior center Tia Dawson, who took only two shots, made one of them for two points and had only one offensive rebound among her six boards. Dawson is 6-foot-2 and has shown flashes of real talent during her time in Hanover, but never on anything resembling a consistent basis.

“Tia’s doing a lot of (screening) and rebounding and blocking for us right now,” Koclanes said. “But we want her to get the ball inside a little bit more and have her score.”

Luckily for Dartmouth, Szabo caught fire in that department. The Hungarian hit on 11 of 15 shots after intermission, including four of six from beyond the arc. She scored 26 of her points during the second half, bouncing back from a scoreless performance during a loss at Syracuse last week.

“She got looks, but she just didn’t make shots (in the Carrier Dome) and she panicked a little bit and started forcing shots, which is a freshman thing to do,” Koclanes said. “We have to get her to realize she can contribute in other ways. We had a nice chat on the bus ride home, and she was in the gym shooting for hours the last few days.”

Koclanes is relentlessly upbeat and emerged from the locker room after Monday’s game talking about how excited she is for an upcoming layoff of nearly two weeks, when she can fine-tune her team during practice.

“When you’re on that court and you’re not working hard, that’s disrespecting the game of basketball,” the coach said. “We’re going to be a team that works hard and not just fights, but enjoys the fight. We embrace it, and that’s how we practice. We’re instilling that in them.”

Notes: Dartmouth played without starting point guard Nicola Zimmer, who Koclanes said stayed home sick and watched the game on a live streaming Internet feed. … Providence leads the teams’ series, 5-2. … Dartmouth players who have yet to see action this season are guards Jordyn Turner, Chay Fuller, Moriah Morton and Sofia Roman, forwards Kasey Crockett and Lauren Taiclet and center Daisy Jordan. The first three are healthy, and the other four are injured. … Former Dartmouth coach Chris Wielgus, who resigned after last season, later joined Massachusetts as the director of woman’s basketball operations. The team has started 0-3, losing 66-58 to visiting Western Michigan, 105-61 to visiting Central Michigan and 82-59 at American in Washington. Fourth-year head coach Sharon Dawley, a former assistant to Wielgus at Dartmouth, is 18-73 at UMass.

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