Men’s basketball loses to Princeton, beats Penn

by Ray Lu | 2/22/15 6:01pm

02.23.15.sports.sportsweekly.mens-bball_Weijia-Tang
The men’s basketball team fell to Princeton University on Friday night but bounced back with a win over the University of Pennsylvania.
Source: FAITH ROTICH/THE DARTMOUTH STAFF

The Big Green men’s basketball team went 1-1 in the last week of its two-week home stand, dropping to Princeton University on Friday 63-56 before avenging a loss to the University of Pennsylvania earlier this season with a victory of 67-62 on Saturday.

Traditionally, the Princeton-Penn weekends have been tough on the Big Green (10-14, 3-7 Ivy). The Tigers (12-13, 5-4 Ivy) now hold a lifetime 147-62 record, while the Quakers (7-16, 2-7 Ivy) dropped to 150-59.

Earlier in the season, the Big Green faced both teams on the road, taking tough losses to Penn 58-51 and to Princeton 64-53. The defeats sparked the beginning of a five-game losing streak for the Big Green, who had not lost or won more than two consecutive games at that point in their season.

While Princeton never trailed in the first contest, Dartmouth maintained a lead throughout the entirety of the first half of this matchup. After co-captain Gabas Maldunas ’15 put the Big Green on the board 11 seconds into the game, the Tigers would remain at a disadvantage before their rally midway through the second.

Dartmouth opened the game strong against the Tigers, leading by as much as nine before going cold in the second half, which saw the team shoot 34.6 percentage from the field.

Princeton missed its first eight shots from the field, giving Dartmouth a 9-0 lead six minutes into the game. Wilson broke the drought with a three, but Wright quickly responded with a deep ball of his own.

The two teams traded baskets from then on. Princeton began to mount a comeback with seven minutes to go in the half. A three by senior Ben Hazel, who drained four triples in the teams’ last matchup, cut Dartmouth’s lead to 20-19. The Big Green responded with some big baskets, including a jumper from Maldunas and a three from Mitola. Dartmouth entered the second half with a 32-27 lead.

As Dartmouth’s lead began to slip in the second half, Maldunas hit a jumper with 9:44 to go, putting the team ahead 47-45.Tigers senior Clay Wilson responded with a three, and the Big Green would never regain the advantage.

Including the triple, Princeton mounted an 11-2 run over the next seven minutes by taking advantage of Dartmouth’s cold shooting. During the run, the Big Green went 0-for-3 from the line and 1-for-9 from the field, including a miss on a contested breakaway dunk by Wright.

“[Princeton’s] a three-point shooting team, so when you’re a three-point shooting team, you rely on runs,” Mitola said. “In the first they were a little cold, but in the second half they got hot and that spaced out the floor for them, and then that was a big reason as to why they were able to come back.”

Two of three free throws from co-captain Alex Mitola ’16 made the basket and brought the deficit to 56-51 with 1:45 to go, but a corner three from Princeton sophomore Steven Cook served as the dagger. Princeton went on to hit 4-for-7 from the line and sealed the game.

Wright, who was just the second Dartmouth men’s basketball player to be named Ivy League Rookie of the Week for two consecutive weeks, had nine of his game-high 16 points in the first half. After reaching the 1,000-point milestone last weekend, Maldunas matched Wright with 16 points and also tacked on seven boards and five assists, leading both teams.

Princeton had four players in double digits, including freshman Amir Bell with 12 and Wilson with 11. Cook and sophomore Spencer Weisz — Princeton’s leading scorer on the season with 12 points per game — had 10 points each.

“Princeton missed a couple of open looks early in the game, so we opened up with a 9-to-0 lead,” Maldunas said. “They didn’t change anything. They just kept playing together, and at the end of the game they started making those shots that they were missing in the first half. Once they started hitting those, we weren’t able to bounce back up again. On the other end, the shots that we were hitting in the first half we weren’t hitting in the second half. If you’re not going to hit shots, you’re not going to win.”

Against the Quakers, the two teams were largely matched in the first half, with five ties and no team taking larger than a four-point lead. Mitola hit the game’s opening basket — a three — on a night when he seemed unable to miss.

The point guard led all scorers with 18 points, including four baskets from downtown. The offensive output was much needed, and it was Mitola’s highest scoring game since the matchup against Harvard on Jan. 24.

“That’s just kind of the game of basketball,” Mitola said. “Some nights you shoot better than other nights, and we haven’t been having a great year on offense.”

The Big Green led 29-28 going into the second half and started off strong after the intermission. After Maldunas scored an opening layup, Mitola rattled off eight unanswered points on his own, including two triples.

The Quakers held their ground and responded with a 16-4 run over the next five minutes. Freshman Mike Auger sparked the momentum with a drive to the basket for an and-one. The Quakers also tacked on four deep balls, including two by freshman Sam Jones.

Penn took its largest lead of the game thus far, 51-46, when Antonio Woods was fouled on a layup and sank the accompanying free throw.

With under four minutes to go, the Big Green still trailed the visitors 57-56. This time around, however, Dartmouth would recover. Tommy Carpenter ’16 and Mitola combined for a 9-2 run, putting Dartmouth ahead for good.

Carpenter had a career night with 13 points and five assists. Maldunas chipped in 12 points and seven boards, and Connor Boehm ’16 had 10 points. Wright had his lowest scoring output — two points on 1-for-4 shooting — since the first game against Penn on Jan. 30 when he played 11 minutes and scored just one point.

“In the second half it was Tommy Carpenter,” Maldunas said. “He played really well. Down the stretch he made a couple of big plays, some and-one buckets, and I feel like the Penn defense started honoring that a little more, and that opened up the space for [Mitola], [Boehm] and myself or [Gill]. His contribution was real big in that game, because he made those couple of big plays that might not seem as big during the game but it really opens up a lot.”

Darien Nelson-Henry led the young Quakers squad with 12 points. Woods had 11 points and six dimes, and Camryn Crocker added 10 points.

The men’s basketball team gets back on the road next weekend, with games against Columbia University on Friday in and Cornell University on Saturday. A time change pushed the first game back to 8 p.m., and the second game will tip off at 6 p.m.