Dartmouth women’s basketball announces new recruits

The Dartmouth women’s basketball team rebounded from a disappointing ‘16-’17 season (8-19 overall, 3-11 Ivy) to go 15-12 overall and 7-7 in the conference in ‘17-’18, missing the Ivy Tournament by one game.  The Big Green lose three important players to graduation, guard Kate Letkiewicz, forward Andi Norman, and center Olivia Smith. Letkiewicz, a second team All-Ivy selection, started all 27 games, averaging 14.0 points, 2.7 three pointers, 6.0 rebounds, and 36.9 minutes per contest.  Norman started 25 games with 5.8 points, 1.6 made threes, and 2.9 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per game. Smith, who averaged 7.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 20.3 minutes per game, started 8 of 21 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Princeton on Feb. 10.

On Thursday, Coach Belle Koclanes announced the program’s five new members of the Class of 2022, who will attempt to help the team replenish its losses, build upon last year’s successes and, hopefully, move into the Ivy League’s upper division throughout the next several years.

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Jaron Faulds and Myles Hanson leave Columbia men’s basketball

In case you missed it, the Columbia Spectator on Friday broke the news that first-year players Jaron Faulds and Myles Hanson have left the men’s basketball team and will pursue other opportunities. Ryan James of PrepHoops tweeted that Hanson will be looking to transfer for next fall.

Faulds played in 26 games this past season, averaging 4.5 points on 59.6 percent shooting, 3.2 rebounds and 14.2 minutes per contest. The 6’10” forward from Holt, Mich. was a four-star recruit at ESPN. Hanson, a two-star 6’6” small forward from Chaska, Minn., saw action in 19 games, averaging 3.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 10.5 minutes per game. Both were members of coach Jim Engles’s first recruiting class at Columbia.

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Yale defeats Central Arkansas, 54-50, to take WBI championship

After spending most of Wednesday traveling 1,500 miles from New Haven to Atlanta to Little Rock to Conway, Ark., the Yale women’s basketball team had enough energy left in the tank to take down the University of Central Arkansas, 54-50, for the 2018 Women’s Basketball Invitational championship.

In a defensive contest that came down to the wire, first team All-Ivy senior forward Jen Berkowitz scored the final four points for the Bulldogs (19-13) in the final minute to seal the record setting victory in front of a jammed packed 3,500-plus partisan Farris Center crowd.

The Bulldogs struggled offensively for the second straight game, hitting only three of their first 11 shots in the opening 10 minutes.  The Sugar Bears (25-10), meanwhile, shot 7-for-14, including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc, to take a 18-11 lead after the first quarter. Yale fared slightly better in the second quarter, shooting 38 percent from the field, but its defense began to lock down Central Arkansas, holding the home team to 31 percent shooting.  After 20 minutes of action, the Elis found themselves down only 27-24.

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Yale outlasts South Alabama in WBI semifinal instant classic

The Yale women’s basketball team somehow survived and advanced in an instant classic in the WBI semifinal against visiting South Alabama, roaring back from 11 points down with under two minutes to go to pull off a stunning comeback 76-74 win in overtime.

found itself home for the first time in twenty eight days, but could not find its shooting touch until the game’s sixteenth minute. By that time, the Bulldogs (18-13) were 1 for their first 25 and down 19 to the visiting Jaguars of South Alabama from the Sun Belt conference (21-13).  The Elis then went on a 11-2 run to close out the first half down only 29-19.

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Bulldogs’ bench shines as Yale moves into WBI semifinals

The Yale women (17-13) visited Binghamton (20-12) in the second round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI), and held on for a 70-64 victory to move into the tournament semifinal.  With the victory, the Bulldogs earned their second-ever postseason win and tied a program record for number of wins in a season. They are now set to face South Alabama at the John J. Lee Amphitheater on Saturday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. on the Ivy League Network.

With the score tied at eight, four minutes into the game, the Elis broke things open with a 16-2 run over the next 8:10. They extended the lead to a high of 19 late in the second quarter before closing out the half with a 17-point lead over the Bearcats. With Jen Berkowitz limited to 11 minutes due to foul trouble, junior forward Alexandra Maund put up six points (3-for-3 shooting) and six rebounds against Alyssa James, the three-time America East Defensive Player of the Year. First-year guard Tori Andrews, who missed the team’s December game against Binghamton due to an injury, came off the bench and went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc to lead Yale with 10 points.

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No. 12 Princeton loses to No. 5 Maryland in NCAA Tournament

Princeton last faced Maryland at College Park in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, losing to the Terrapins for its first and only defeat of the year. Playing at a neutral site in North Carolina, the No. 12-seeded Tigers not only entertained thoughts of a revenge victory against Maryland, but a possible second round win against N.C. State or Elon.  Unfortunately for the Orange & Black, the No. 5-seeded Terrapins (No. 16 nationally) had other ideas, ending the Tigers’ season for the second time in four years with a convincing 77-57 victory.

The Tigers could not control the tempo or the boards against the Terrapins, especially in the early parts of both halves.  In the opening 10 minutes, Maryland only shot 27 percent from two and 38 percent from three, but the Terrapins outrebounded Princeton by 52 percent and got seven more attempts in the quarter to open a 17-11 lead.  The Tigers, who got pushed away from the basket through most of the first half, finally broke through in the second quarter, hitting five of 10 two-pointers while their defense held the Terrapins without a three to go into the locker room only down 31-26.

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Women’s Ivy Tournament teams continue onward in postseason

For the second consecutive year, all four participants in the women’s Ivy Tournament have earned postseason bids.  Following top seeded Princeton’s championship victory over second place Penn early Sunday evening, the Tigers clinched the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and Penn claimed the conference’s automatic qualifying spot in the Women’s NIT.  On Monday night, Harvard received an at-large bid to the WNIT and Yale was selected for the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI).

The Tigers were chosen as the No. 12 seed in the Kansas City regional, where they will face No. 5 Maryland in Raleigh on Friday at noon on ESPN2 and online at ESPN3.  For Princeton, this is their ninth straight postseason appearance and seventh trip to the Big Dance.  The Quakers will be going up against Albany at the Palestra on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. on the Ivy League Network.  Penn is competing in its sixth straight postseason tournament and its second trip to the WNIT.  The Crimson will travel to the Bronx on Friday night at 7:00 pm to take on Fordham on the A-10 Network, as they make their 14th overall postseason tournament, eighth all-time WNIT showing and sixth WNIT appearance in the last seven seasons.  The Bulldogs will visit Northeastern on Thursday night at 7:00 pm on Northeastern’s NUxtreme.  This is the team’s first postseason play under third-year head coach Allison Guth, and the first of any kind since a 2011 WNIT bid.

Here is a short primer on the Ivy representatives’ opponents for this week’s action:

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Princeton blasts Penn, 63-34, to clinch NCAA Tournament berth

On Sunday evening, the Princeton women dominated the Penn Quakers, 63-34, to complete a three-game season sweep of the two-time defending champions, taking the League Ivy Tournament title and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Coupled with their strong performance against Yale on Saturday night, Courtney Banghart’s squad left no doubt in showing which team is the Ancient Eight’s best.

Like they did against the Bulldogs, the Orange & Black were aggressive from the start.  Sydney Jordan hit a layup 49 seconds into the game and that was the beginning of the end for Penn.  The Tigers went out to an 8-0 lead before Michelle Nwokedi hit a three-pointer at the 5:55 mark. Princeton’s Abby Meyers came off the bench to score the next 11 points to open a commanding 19-3 lead at the end of the opening frame.  The Tigers defensive intensity led them to a 16-6 rebounding advantage as they held Penn to a 1-for-14 performance from the field.

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Penn holds off Harvard, 55-52, to advance to Ivy League Tournament final

To paraphrase Gotham City Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, “This is the close game Ivy basketball fans deserve, but not the one it needs right now.”

After three games, a thirty minute delay for a broken shot clock, and eight hours of blowout playoff action, the Penn and Harvard women gave the Ivy hoops faithful a game that went down to the wire with the Quakers pulling out the 57-52 victory.  While both offenses struggled throughout the night, the defensive effort was elite. The first quarter ended in a 8-8 tie with the Crimson shooting 16 percent and the Quakers hitting 13 percent of its attempts. The teams improved slightly in the second quarter with Harvard moving up to 33 percent and Penn shooting 29 percent.  With both teams hitting the same number of two and threes in the first half, the Quakers went into the locker room up 23-18 on the strength of its 5 point advantage at the free throw line.

In the third quarter, Penn shot 50 percent, but came up empty from three.  Harvard, meanwhile, only shot 25 percent, but Katie Benzan hit 3 three pointers from NBA range and the team had a four point advantage from the charity stripe to cut the Penn lead to 37-35 with 10 minutes to go.  The Red & Blue put more defensive pressure on Benzan and the offense finally hit shots, including threes from Ashley Russell and Phoebe Sterba, to open up a 7 point lead with 4:37 left in regulation. After the Crimson got the game to 51-48, Penn senior guard Anna Ross hit a huge three with 91 seconds remaining.  Benzan then missed three attempts from long range to end any hope Harvard had of forcing the game into overtime.

For the night, Ross was the only double digit scorer for Penn with 15 points, 9 in the decisive fourth quarter.  Senior forward Michelle Nwokedi also had a big night with 8 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks and junior forward Princess Aghayere came off the bench to give the team 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 19 minutes of action.  Benzan led all scorers with 6 three pointers and 20 points. Senior forward Taylor Rooks added 10 points and 12 rebounds (6 offensive), while sophomore forward Jeannie Boehm had 8 points, 14 boards and 3 blocks.

Penn coach Mike McLaughlin’s fourth quarter move to take Ross off of Benzan and replace her with Russell proved to be a decisive defensive decision.  Russell got in Benzan’s face and forced one of nation’s leading three point shooters (46.2 percent overall and 50.0 percent in league play) into 1-7 shooting in the fourth quarter.  Offensively, his team’s leadership came through with Ross hitting two key three pointers after going 0-4 from beyond the arc and fellow senior Beth Brzozowski going 2-2 from the line to make it a two possession game with eight seconds remaining.

For Harvard, they suffer their tenth road loss of the year and their second straight first round exit as the number three seed in the conference tournament.  In the short term, their 18 overall wins, 10 Ivy victories and #51 RPI ranking should insure a postseason bid later this week. For next year, the team does graduate starters Kirby Porter and Taylor Rooks, but they have Sydney Skinner and Jadyn Bush to move into those spots, as well as a solid nucleus and a promising group of underclass athletes.  While things did not work out for the coach and her players on Saturday night, things look good for the program to extend its top three streak to 16 seasons in 2019. With the rumored move of the Ivy Tournament away from the Palestra, a venue where the team has gone 0-8 since the winter of 2012, the third time may ultimately prove to be the charm for the Crimson.

With the win, the Quakers set up a return match against top seed Princeton,  This will be the second consecutive year the historic rivals meet for the league’s automatic bid and the second time it will be played on Penn’s home court.  As the number one seed last year, there were no issues with that location. As the number two seed, many, including Princeton’s coach, feel the game should be played at Jadwin Gymnasium.  

While Penn understands its fortune at playing this game on its home court and its boisterous fans, the team knows that the Tigers have soundly beaten them twice this year, including a conference opening 70-55 defeat at the Palestra.  Adding that to the dominant performance Princeton had over Yale early Saturday night and the offensive difficulties his team had against Harvard, Coach McLaughlin knows his team has got to improve on offense to have any chance at the upset.  “We’re gonna have to find a way to find a way to play them in the 60s tomorrow. We have to get out of the 40s and 50s with them. So, I think we have to win side out-of-bounds, deflections in the scorers, all the little things that maybe can give us the chance of getting into the 60s with them.”  If they can manage to make it to the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year, the Red & Blue will look to avenge last year’s epic first-round collapse against Texas A&M.  However, they first need to get through a talented, deep, and confident Princeton team that is looking to send a message to league officials as they seek to return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2016.

Princeton bests Yale, 78-57, to advance to Ivy League Tournament final

In the teams’ first two matchups, Yale came out of the gate quickly against Princeton, the Ivy League’s regular season champion.  Tonight’s 78-57 Princeton win over the Bulldogs was a different story.

The No. 1 Tigers came out playing more aggressively and capitalized on early foul trouble for the Bulldogs’ Roxy Barahman to open up a nine-point first-half lead. No. 4 Yale managed to make it a five-point game with 4:59 to go in the first half, but three consecutive three-pointers from Carlie Littlefield and Tia Weledji upped the lead to 15 and the Tigers eventually went into the locker room up 39-23.

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