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Brittney Smith and Matt LaBove Named Dartmouth Athletes of the Week

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Matt LaBove and Brittney Smith     By Dartmouth
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Each week, will spotlight two outstanding student-athletes - one male, one female - as Dartmouth's Athletes of the Week. Student-athletes may be chosen based upon their efforts both on and off the field of competition.

Two post players set the standard on the hardwood as basketball's Brittney Smith (Fort Worth, Texas) and Matt LaBove (Shrewsbury, Mass.) have earned Dartmouth Athletes of the Week honors. Smith, a junior, picked up the award for the second-straight time after averaging a double-double in the last five games while LaBove, a freshman, has earned a starting role for the Dartmouth men.

Dartmouth Female Athlete of the Week:
Brittney Smith (Fort Worth, Texas) Women's Basketball, Forward, Junior
Junior forward Brittney Smith (Fort Worth, Texas) has kept up her team-leading play for women's basketball, going 2-3 in the last five games. In those contests, Smith averaged a double-double on 12 points and 11 rebounds per game, along with 13 blocks, 12 assists and nine steals. She was named to the all-tournament teams at both the USC Women of Troy Classic and the Dartmouth Blue Sky Classic. In a Dec. 20 win over Delaware State, Smith dominated with 10 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks - both career highs. She filled the statsheet in a one-point loss to Rhode Island with 17 points, 14 rebounds, five steals and three assists. Smith capped the stretch by powering the Big Green over Holy Cross with 20 points, eight rebounds, three blocks, two steals and a career-high six assists.

The reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, Smith is rapidly moving up the Dartmouth all-time lists, surpassing 875 points, 575 rebounds, 100 steals and 90 blocks.

Teams are keying in on you defensively but you have responded with strong play of late. To what do you attribute your success?
We've been working a lot in practice on how to score and pass out of the double team, which has really helped me. We are a strong inside so teams usually zone us but in recent games we've been able to make three-pointers so it has opened up the inside for the posts to score.

The team faced a very diverse schedule in the last five opponents. What is it like preparing for those different styles and do you see the benefits?
Our coaches do a great job of scouting so we have a good plan defensively for each game. We change up our defense according to our opponent and I think the diversity in the styles of play has made us a better defensive team and better prepared for the Ivy League. Defense becomes especially important when we play top-25 teams because they average more points than we do so, in order for us to compete we need to be able to keep them under their scoring averages.

Last year's team built a strong identity with its defense. As one of the top defensive players, what is the key to good defense?
Defense is very important to us because it is one of the few things in basketball that is constant. We know that it is important to play good defense because a lot of the teams we play in pre-season are very strong offensively. The keys to good defense are pure effort, communicating with teammates, and having a collective goal.

What is it like to be with just your teammates and focused on only basketball for the three weeks without classes?
It was great to be able to focus 100% on getting extra shots up and not having to worry about papers or exams when we traveled. It was important for us to focus on personal skill development during the break because we do not have as much free time when classes start.

What is the mindset of the team as you wrap up the non-conference schedule and prepare to open the Ivy slate with Harvard on Jan. 16?
We are all very excited to start Ivy League play because it is our main goal to win the Ivy Championship. It's what we've been preparing for the entire season.

Dartmouth Male Athlete of the Week:
Matt LaBove (Shrewsbury, Mass.), Men's Basketball, Center, Freshman

Although the men's basketball team struggled during the winter break, freshman Matt LaBove has played himself into a starting role. The 6-9 center averaged 9.5 points and 7.5 rebounds over four games, including his first career double-double with 12 points and a season-best 11 rebounds on the road at Lehigh. In a televised game at Quinnipiac, LaBove (pronounced la-BO) led the Big Green with a season-high 13 points and six boards. The Ivy League named him the conference Rookie of the Week on Dec. 21 as well.

As a freshman, how have you adjusted to the college game thus far?
Coming into my freshman year I knew that the college game was going to be at a whole other level than my high school competition and I wanted to prepare myself. I made a dedicated effort in the weight room this past summer and was able to gain 15-20 pounds. I feel that this extra weight has helped me adjust tremendously in college where everyone is a lot bigger and stronger than the players in high school.

What do you feel the team needs to focus on to improve upon its record?
I think if you look at the games in which we won against those that we lost, the thing that is most evident is that we played a complete game in the victories. In particular, the games we have won we have gotten off to a fast start and continued that energy throughout the entire game. I think in order to improve our record we need to have more games with fast starts. We can compete with every team we play, but it seems like too many times we put ourselves in a hole early and have to dig out of it the rest of the game.

The Ivy League season is beginning this weekend. What are your expectations for the games against other teams in the conference?
As a team I think we are very excited for the Ivy season to begin. I think we know we can play better basketball than we have been playing and with the Ivy season starting we get a clean slate. I wasn't around last year, but the upperclassmen are saying that they were able to turn it around last year and compete for an Ivy League championship, so we should be able to do the same thing this year.

What are your goals for yourself and Dartmouth during your four years with the squad?
My goal for my time at Dartmouth is an Ivy League championship. For myself personally, I hope to work hard enough to put myself in the best position to help the team achieve this goal.