Men's basketball team sees rough start with first-year head coach

by Mark Cui | 1/9/17 2:25am

On Jan. 7, Dartmouth’s men’s basketball team fell in its Ivy League opener to heavily favored Harvard University 74-58. Despite beginning the season with a new head coach, David McLaughlin, the team has yet to show major improvements in its win-loss column from last year’s final record of 10-18, as the team’s overall record this year now stands at 3-11.

Dartmouth’s Evan Boudreaux ’19 led all players in points and rebounds with totals of 15 and 14, respectively. Brendan Barry ’20 and Miles Wright ’18 contributed 12 points each for the Big Green. However, compared to the Crimson’s 9 turnovers, Dartmouth committed 17.

Following the 16-point loss, the team’s Ivy League record stands at 0-1, marking the second consecutive game that Dartmouth has dropped after losing 64-60 to California State University, Bakersfield.

A key factor in the team’s poor overall record is that teams are focusing more on Boudreaux, who was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year after posting an outstanding 17.7 points and 9.4 rebounds on 45.5 percent shooting. Although he has maintained a league-leading seven double-doubles this season, his overall numbers have dropped across the board this year. The biggest decline is in field goal percentage, as Boudreaux is shooting only 36.9 percent thus far.

“Teams are focusing me a little bit more this year,” Boudreaux said. “I think I have to do a better job with the ball in my hands more. I just need to continue to play the right way, which will go a long way.”

Additionally, another factor is Dartmouth’s poor play in the final minutes of each game. For six of its eleven losses, the team faced a one-possession game with three minutes or less left that could have gone in the Big Green’s favor. To address this, the coach noted that the team must become more comfortable with each other and continue to work on the defensive end.

“I think we just have to be a better job of becoming experts on each other. On the defensive end, we’re learning how to get stops more consistently and preventing teams from getting easy looks, and that’s how you win late in games,” McLaughlin said. “That’s a growth for any team, and we’re learning from every situation we are in.”

In the face of the mounting number of losses, McLaughlin has stressed to the team that winning is a process that would take time.

“My coaching staff and I have been preaching that it’s a process and a daily improvement,” McLaughlin said. “That’s what we’re striving for and we’re looking to get better every day.”

Despite the poor team record, the team remains optimistic about the future and have bought into the coach’s emphasis on process.

“I think we’re growing, we’re getting more comfortable playing as a group,” Boudreaux said. “Lately especially we’re playing the right way and we’re getting better as the season goes on.”

Based on record, the team has indeed improved as the season has progressed. The team began the season with nine consecutive losses before rallying for a three game win streak.

“Just because you’re losing some games doesn’t mean you’re not getting better as a team,” McLaughlin said. “We’re still playing competitive basketball. We didn’t really play any differently in when we lost to when we won. We just wanted to trust the process, allow us to coach the team, and come to the gym with a competitive nature every day.”

Another key to the team’s winning streak has been its improved defense.

“The big thing that has changed during the winning streak is that defensively we’re playing a lot better and cohesively as a team,” Barry said.

As the season has progressed, the freshmen have continued to develop chemistry with the rest of the team and have begun to play a pivotal role in the development of the squad.

“The freshmen have been fitting in great,” Boudreaux said. “They work really hard. They’re getting more minutes and they have the potential to play a lot. We’re really excited about them.”

The upperclassmen have played a key role in facilitating the freshman’s transition and promoting a culture that encourages team chemistry.

“The leadership from our seniors and upperclassmen have been really great,” McLaughlin said. “It starts with how they approach each day and it starts with them showing accountability and how to lead themselves. If you have all those things combined, you have team chemistry.”

The upperclassmen have trust in the freshmen to take and make big shots. Perhaps the biggest late-game shot from a freshman this season was by Barry, who hit a three pointer with 2.8 seconds left to win the game 63-62 against the University of New Hampshire on Dec. 31.

“That’s a play we practice often,” Barry said. “When I caught the ball, I knew that I had a little space and there wasn’t much time left. I had to shoot it, and I was really excited after hitting it.”

Despite the squad’s losing overall record, the team looks forward to improving and believing in the process that McLaughlin has emphasized.

“We want to approach practice with a certain attitude and competitive nature and those two things are what you need for great practices. I feel like we’ve made those stride in practices and as a result we’ve made those strides in games,” McLaughlin said.

By the end of the season, the team hopes that its hard work in practices will begin to show up in its final box scores.

“Our main goal for us this season is to make the Ivy League Tournament,” Barry said. “That’d be a good expectation for us, and I think we can do it as long we keep playing with each other and with defensive intensity.”