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Defensive struggles sink W. Basketball

By Sterling Xie '16

January 30, 2014

The Hamilton women’s basketball team has built its foundation upon excellent ball-handling and suffocating defense.  That bedrock betrayed the Continentals last Saturday, however, when Hamilton (7-9, 1-4 NESCAC) fell to 15th-ranked Williams (16-2, 3-2 NESCAC) by a 66-49 score at Williamstown, Massachusetts.

The Conts weren’t quite up to speed for the early afternoon tip-off, as the Ephs blitzed Hamilton with an 8-0 run to start the contest. The lead fluctuated the rest of the first half, but Williams shot 50 percent in the second half, opening up a double-digit lead they would hold for the final 10 minutes.

The loss came on the heels of two encouraging home games, in which Hamilton defeated Colby 63-56, and fell in overtime to Bowdoin 65-71. In those games, the Continentals took care of the ball (just 25 turnovers combined), and both Colby and Bowdoin shot under 50 percent.  Conversely, in the road loss to Williams, Hamilton coughed the ball up 21 times, while allowing the Ephs to shoot 42.1 percent from the field.

Dani Feigin ’14 paced the Continentals with 13 points that day, but the senior captain knows it’s the other end of the court that cost her team the game.  “That loss was all about lack of defense,” asserts Feigin.  “If we sprinted back a little better in transition and stopped their transition game, that game may have had a different outcome.”

Starting guard Carly Gruenberg ’16, who nearly posted a double-double in the loss with eight points and nine rebounds, echoed a similar sentiment.  “We did not play our game on Saturday,” she said.  “We had trouble getting into a rhythm on offense, but mainly we need to focus on getting stops on defense and that’s how we will win games. We are a very talented team and can definitely play with anyone.”

The team’s recent malaise has dropped the Continentals to ninth in the NESCAC standings, out of the playoffs at the moment.  Fortunately, with a season-ending five-game conference stretch, Hamilton has a golden opportunity to recapture a postseason berth, something they have not accomplished since moving to the NESCAC two seasons ago.

In a fortunate scheduling break, the Conts get Middlebury at home for their next contest.  The Panthers sit just a half-game ahead of Hamilton for the coveted eighth and final playoff position, having played one fewer conference game than the Continentals.  The two teams have yet to meet this season, but last season, Hamilton went into Vermont and beat their rivals in thrilling fashion, with Sam Graber ’16 hitting a buzzer-beating layup.

Feigin knows Middlebury will have vengeance on their minds as they seek to return the favor this season.  “That is a winnable and important game for us if we want to make playoffs. We play Middlebury this Sunday…it should be a good game and one that we need to win again.”

Hamilton came into the season with the goal of reaching the playoffs.   If they are to fulfill that mission, a repeated win against Middlebury is essential.

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