Women’s Hoops Splits Opening NESCAC Pair

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Women’s Hoops Splits Opening NESCAC Pair

Rachel Crews ’15 backs down on Tufts’ 6’2’’ center Haley Kanner. Kanner entered the game as the NESCAC’s leading shot blocker, averaging more than three per game. (Campus/Paul Gerard)

Rachel Crews ’15 backs down on Tufts’ 6’2’’ center Haley Kanner. Kanner entered the game as the NESCAC’s leading shot blocker, averaging more than three per game. (Campus/Paul Gerard)

Rachel Crews ’15 backs down on Tufts’ 6’2’’ center Haley Kanner. Kanner entered the game as the NESCAC’s leading shot blocker, averaging more than three per game. (Campus/Paul Gerard)

Rachel Crews ’15 backs down on Tufts’ 6’2’’ center Haley Kanner. Kanner entered the game as the NESCAC’s leading shot blocker, averaging more than three per game. (Campus/Paul Gerard)

By Fritz Parker

The Middlebury women’s basketball team opened NESCAC play with a pair of games this past weekend, using a fast start to run past Bates on Friday, Jan. 10, before falling to a tough Jumbos team on Sunday, Jan. 12. The Panthers followed the NESCAC split with a home win over Colby-Sawyer to improve to 6-7 on the season.

On Friday, Middlebury held Bates to 20 percent from the field in the first half for just 15 points in building a 19-point halftime lead. The Panthers hit a trio of three-point shots in the half to help themselves to a large early lead.

“Our fast start was crucial to our success that game because we were able to set a time that was necessary to maintain the entire game in order to win,” said senior guard Scarlett Kirk ’14.

The halftime deficit would be too much for the Bobcats to overcome, as they outscored the Panthers in the second half only to fall by a final tally of 67-54.

Kirk – playing in just her fifth game of the season for the basketball team after wrapping up a soccer season in which she garnered First Team All-NESCAC honors en route to the team’s national semifinals appearance – led all Middlebury scorers with 17 points on 7-11 shooting, She also pulled down 10 rebounds to cement a double-double.

“Basketball uses some different muscles and there were a lot of plays I had to learn, but the transition was pretty easy,” she said. “It is fun to have another chance to compete after the successful soccer season.”

Forward Elizabeth Knox ’17 also got into the scoring fold, recording 14 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double of her own against Bates. Guard Sarah Marcus ’14 added 15 points, with Alexis Coolidge ’15 pouring in 14 off the bench to pace the Panthers on the day.

Matching up against seventh-ranked Tufts on Sunday afternoon, the Panthers struggled with turnovers in their eventual loss to the visiting Jumbos. While the Panthers kept pace on the boards and played strong defense throughout – holding Tufts to 30 percent shooting in the first half – poor second-half shooting and a 24-6 turnover margin spelled doom for the home team.

The Panthers were able to keep it relatively close until halftime, but fell far behind in the second period to lose by a final tally of 70-44.

“We were aware that Tufts was going to be a very difficult opponent,” Knox said. “We just went into the game with the mindset that we would have to bring a very high intensity and work extremely hard defensively to compete with their tall forwards. Offensively, we prepared to execute Middlebury basketball like always.”

Kirk’s play was again a bright spot for Middlebury, as she followed up Friday night’s performance with 12 points and 10 boards for another double-double. Knox led all scorers with 13 points, going 4-8 from the floor and hitting all four of her free-throws.

“A few things that worked for me in this weekend’s games were trying to get into good position down low and box out on the offensive and defensive boards,”  Knox said.

Back in action on Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Panthers played host to Colby-Sawyer in a non-league game. The teams remained tightly locked through the first half, with the Chargers hitting three crucial three-pointers to keep the game competitive early. At the half, Colby-Sawyer clung to a slim one-point lead.

Coming out of the break, Middlebury was able to tighten up their defense while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor. The Panthers took advantage of a significant rebounding advantage ­— including 13 boards from Kirk — to pull away in the second half and win 65-58.

Marcus and Rachel Crews ’15 led the Panthers with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Coolidge — scoring 10 off the bench — was Middlebury’s other double-figure scorer in the game.

Middlebury moves to 6-7 on the season with the weekend’s split performance followed by the victory over Colby-Sawyer and starts NESCAC play at a 1-1 clip, while Bates and Tufts advance to 7-6 and 12-0 for the season, respectively.

The Panthers go on the road this weekend, Jan. 17 and 19, for conference matchups with Wesleyan and Connecticut College – who each recorded a win and a loss in the opening weekend of conference play. Wins against the Cardinals and Camels would put Middlebury in strong position heading into the heart of the NESCAC schedule later in January.

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