Dartmouth men's basketball team looks to finish season strong

by Alex Leibowitz | 2/20/17 2:15am

In the past two weeks, the men’s basketball team has been playing much better than its record would suggest. While the team is 6-17 overall and 3-7 in the Ivy league, most of those losses came at the beginning of the season. Over the past three weeks, Dartmouth has recorded impressive wins over in-conference rivals Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania and Brown University. The team’s 3-7 conference record places it in a sixth place tie with Cornell University. However, with Penn and Columbia tied for fourth in the league off 4-6 records, there remains a chance for Dartmouth to finish in the top four, thereby earning a spot in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament and a chance at an NCAA tournament bid.

Saturday’s home win against the Lions was especially impressive. Coming off a close loss at home Friday night to Cornell and down early in overtime on Saturday, the Big Green seemed doomed to another close loss. But with the team down 79-78 and seconds left to play, Taylor Johnson ’18 grabbed a missed free throw, drove the ball the entire length of the floor and scored with one second left to give the Big Green the victory. Even without the game winning heroics, Johnson played well throughout the game, recording 18 points on 7-10 shooting, four rebounds and three assists.

Head coach David McLaughlin does not see the Big Green’s changing fortunes as some sort of anomaly. Rather, he views the winning as a normal development as the team gets comfortable with the new coaching staff. Currently in his first year at Dartmouth, McLaughlin noted the players needed the beginning of the season to get more comfortable with the new personnel.

“I think we started the season off slow, and I think that’s a transition,” McLaughlin said. “A new coach, new coaching staff, us as coaches trying to become experts on our players and our players vice versa. I think the guys are now getting a little bit of an identity. We are on both ends of the floor.”

On the recent win against Columbia, McLaughlin cited the team’s ability to adapt quickly to challenges.

“In particular I thought tonight, we showed that we could play through adversity, that were tough, that we can play at both ends of the floor, and play with multiple guys,” McLaughlin said.

The main takeaway from the game, according to McLaughlin was, “playing through adversity.”

Commenting on the recent run of success, Mike Fleming ’17 noted that the team has begun to adjust to the new system implemented by the coach.

“Obviously teams grow as the season progresses,” Fleming said. “I think that we’ve just tried to continue buying into what the coaching staff is telling us. It just speaks volumes of our character. We haven’t had the season we wanted but obviously we are starting to find some success when it really matters.”

Although Fleming was a bit disappointed the team did not win both games over the weekend, he saw the weekend as a testament of the team’s growth and the one win over Columbia as crucial for the team’s quest to make the Ivy League Tournament.

“This weekend, in general was really important for us,” Fleming said. “Obviously we wanted to come away with two wins. But we didn’t take care of business Friday night. We didn’t really necessarily change our approach, but we just buckled down and stayed true to ourselves.”

Evan Boudreaux ’19, the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year the past season, has continued to be a star for the team. He detailed the dramatic differences between the beginning of the season and the current state of the team.

“I think we’re playing really well as a team,” Boudreaux said. “I think we’re playing as a unit — five guys playing together, instead of one-on-one a lot.”

He also added that a key to the team’s current success is the team’s significant improvement on the defensive end.

The recent success has placed heightened focus on making the Ivy League tournament. In his weekly radio show, McLaughlin stressed the importance of focusing on each individual game rather than the larger goal of making the tournament. The Big Green has four Ivy League games remaining against Brown, Yale University, Penn and Princeton University. Brown is currently last in the league, while Princeton is first. Two of the games are at home where Dartmouth plays better with a 3-7 overall record at home compared to 3-10 away. Furthermore, two of the three conference wins have come at home.

This weekend will be crucial to the team’s playoff hopes. The team needs to beat Brown, currently 11-15 overall and 2-8 in the conference, this Friday to have a chance of playing in the Ivy League tournament. Dartmouth defeated Brown 77-74 in its last matchup on Feb. 11. The Bulldogs, who the Big Green will play on Saturday, are currently third in the Ivy League. In its last meeting on Feb. 10, the Big Green lost 73-64.