Sports

Two home losses solidify women’s basketball’s place in Ivy cellar

Incomplete efforts against Harvard, Dartmouth keep Bears from claiming much-needed conference wins

By
Staff Writer
Monday, February 15, 2016

Shayna Mehta ‘19 dribbles past a defender. She recorded a team-high 20 points against Harvard Friday night, marking the fourth time she has surpassed the 20-point mark this season. Mehta followed up with 17 points the next day against Dartmouth, hitting five three-pointers in the process.

Coming off its first Ivy League win of the season against Columbia, the women’s basketball team entered the weekend with a chance to start its season fresh and improve its dismal 1-5 Ivy League record. But the Bears faltered when it mattered most, losing to Harvard despite a good second-half effort and falling to Dartmouth after taking an early lead.

Harvard 87, Brown 79

From the start, the game looked lost for the Bears. By the time Brown (13-9, 1-7 Ivy) recorded its first points, Harvard (9-11, 4-3) had already scored 15. The Crimson led 24-9 after the first quarter and 44-26 at halftime, even as the Bears scored 17 points in the second quarter.

“We were a little intimidated — for whatever reason — in the first half, on both ends,” said Head Coach Sarah Behn. “We were a little hesitant to shoot, and (we were) not being physical enough under the boards.”

It wasn’t hard to see where the Bears’ first-half scoring problems came from: They were out-rebounded in the first half, 29-8. Harvard racked up more offensive rebounds than Brown had in total, leading to a huge Crimson advantage in second-chance points. But as the third quarter began, the Bears began taking control of their game.

“We turned it around and played with a lot more intensity in the second half,” Behn said. “We pressed a little bit more … and started to play.”

The third quarter began the same way the first half ended, as Harvard stretched the lead to 20 off an offensive rebound.

But then the Bears started scoring. Erika Steeves ’19 came off the bench for seven points in the quarter, while Sheyna Mehta ’19, Rebecca Musgrove ’17 and Jordin Alexander ’16 each added four. The Bears’ rebounding troubles continued: They were out-boarded 9-5. Regardless, they played Harvard even in the third.

“I’m proud of them for at least fighting out of the hole,” Behn said after the game, “But hopefully we can learn a lesson and not be in a hole tomorrow night,” referring to the team’s Saturday game.

The Bears exploded in the fourth quarter — their offense finally clicked while their aggressive press defense kept Harvard from finding a rhythm. But it was too little, too late: Outscoring the Crimson in the final period 32-22, powered by 22 fourth-quarter points from Mehta and Alexander, the Bears lost, 87-79.

“I’m mad that we didn’t play like we did in the second half all game,” Mehta said. “If we had, we could have won.”

Dartmouth 63, Brown 50

If the Bears had started slowly against Harvard, they were first out of the gate against Dartmouth (9-15, 4-4). Brown led 19-11 at the end of the first quarter and 35-21 by halftime.

The Bears “changed up the tempo,” according to Mehta, building on their second half against Harvard and translating the quick pace into an energetic, offensive first half.

But while Dartmouth was down, it certainly was not out. Starting in the third quarter, the Big Green went to work on both ends of the court. Dartmouth opened the quarter with an 8-0 run, leading the Bears 42-40 by the fourth. After the Big Green started the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run, the Bears once again found themselves in too big a hole to escape from.

After their strong first half, the Bears scored only 15 points in the second half and allowed 42. In essence, they played two good halves of basketball: the second against Harvard and the first against Dartmouth. In those two combined halves, the Bears outscored their opposition 88-64. But in the other two halves, opponents had an almost absurd advantage, outscoring Bruno 86-41.

“It’s something we have to work on as a team,” Mehta said. “Keeping our heads in the game all the way, not just for halves at a time.”

Now six games under .500, the Bears have six games left to play. The rest of their season starts Friday night against league leader Penn and continues Saturday against second-place Princeton.

Finishing strong will be no easy task: Like they did against Harvard, the Bears have dug a deep hole for themselves in the standings. But against Harvard and Dartmouth, signs appeared that a turnaround may be in motion.

“We have to play together. We still have a chance,” Mehta said. “We still have almost every team to play. We just have to be strong, keep our heads in it and fight.”