Women’s Basketball Drops Games at Home

By Fritz Parker

The Middlebury women’s basketball team went 1-2 in a trio of games over February break, picking up a narrow road win over Keene State on Tuesday, Feb. 4, before dropping a pair of NESCAC home games to Colby and Bowdoin on Friday, Feb. 7 and Saturday, Feb. 9.

Taking a five-game losing streak on the road to Keene State for a midweek matchup, the Panthers were able to overcome a slow start to edge the Owls by a score of 59-55. While struggling from the floor in the first half, Middlebury capitalized on their 24 free-throw opportunities – of which they converted 17 – en route to the win.

Scarlett Kirk ’14 led the Panthers with 20 points and 18 rebounds for a double-double against Keene State. Middlebury needed all of the help that they could get from Kirk on a day which saw them outrebounded 53-36. Elizabeth Knox ’17 added 11 points in the game.

The Panthers then played host to Colby in a matchup of two squads angling for the eighth and final spot in the upcoming NESCAC tournament. From the opening tip, the Mules were set on establishing their three-point game against the Panthers, hitting six of 13 from long range in the first half to jump out to a 37-31 halftime lead. Though dominant in the paint, Middlebury missed all six of their three-point attempts in the half as they struggled to keep pace.

In the second half, the Mules continued to rain the three-ball, with over half of their attempts in the period coming from beyond the arc. While Kirk’s toughness on the block continued to give the Panthers an edge under the basket, the Mules’ efficiency from three was too much to overcome. Colby stretched their lead throughout the half and went on to win 79-61.

Kirk recorded another double-double in the game, pulling down 17 rebounds to go with 17 points. Guard Sarah Marcus ’14 and forward Rachel Crews ’15 had 13 and 11 points respectively for Middlebury.

In addition to an enormous three-point differential, the Panthers shot just 44 percent from the free-throw line in the game, including 11 misses in the second half alone that would have helped keep the game close.

Returning to action against 22nd-ranked Bowdoin, three-point defense was again a critical weakness for Middlebury. The Polar Bears were able to convert seven of 11 from beyond the arc in the first half alone. Defensive issues were compounded by poor shooting and rebounding from the Panthers, who fell behind early and went into the half trailing by 25.

“I think we did fairly well on the boards,” Knox said. “They were very tall, strong, and physical and we had to work hard to come up with our rebounds.”

The second half was more of the same for Middlebury. The Panthers shot just 30 percent from the floor in the half, while Bowdoin played 15 of the 16 women on the roster and were still able to stretch their lead. The Polar Bears would go on to win by a final tally of 92-55.

Kirk and Knox were the only Panthers to score in double figures against Bowdoin, contributing 10 points each. Middlebury managed just 31 rebounds as a team on the day to Bowdoin’s 41.

“We all knew Bowdoin would be a tough game and knowing we only had a few conference games left definitely added urgency,” Knox said. “We all really wanted the victory, especially for our seniors who have worked so hard and put so much time and energy into our team.”

With the loss to Bowdoin, Middlebury has been eliminated from contention for the NESCAC tournament. Sitting at 1-7 in conference play and in a tie with Colby for ninth place, the Panthers would lose head-to-head tiebreakers to both Wesleyan and Hamilton for the critical eighth spot even if they were to win their final pair of conference games.

Back in action on Tuesday night, Feb. 11, for a home matchup with Suffolk, the Middlebury women again struggled, falling 56-53 in the seniors’ final home game.

In first-half action, Middlebury struggled mightily from the floor, shooting just 18.9 percent in the period, including misses on all eight of their three-point attempts. Kirk’s tenacity on the boards again was a bright spot for the Panthers, helping them to keep the game close even when the shots weren’t falling. Middlebury went into the half trailing 22-16.

Coming out of the break, hot shooting from Marcus helped Middlebury crawl back into the game. Marcus hit a jumper with 2:06 remaining in the game to cut the lead to one at 50-49, but that would be as close as the Panthers would come. Timely free-throw shooting down the stretch helped Suffolk lock down the eventual victory.

Marcus led Middlebury with 18 points on 8-18 shooting, including going 7-11 from the floor in the second half.

Kirk finished with 12 points and 17 rebounds against Suffolk for another double-double, single-handedly helping Middlebury to keep the rebounding margin close. Forward Alexis Coolidge ’15 added eight points off the bench for Middlebury.

The Panthers wrap up their season with a tough pair of NESCAC road games, travelling to face Trinity and twelfth-ranked Amherst on Friday and Sunday, Feb. 14 and 16.

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