Men's basketball wins first game

by Jonathan Gault | 11/23/09 11:00pm

Playing two days after Thanksgiving, the Dartmouth men's basketball team feasted on the University of Hartford Saturday night, recording its first victory of the season, 68-56, at Leede Arena.

Three players scored career highs for Dartmouth, and four Big Green (1-4, 0-0 Ivy) players scored in double digits.

Key to the victory was Dartmouth's ability to knock down open shots. In earlier losses to Loyola and Furman, the Big Green squandered chances to stay in the game and allowed its opponents to run away late.

Against Hartford, the team learned from its mistakes.

"I think we played for a full 40 minutes we didn't have any lapses," Robby Pride '10, who led Dartmouth with a career-high 19 points, said after the game. "We didn't collapse when they made their run."

The Big Green entered the game hoping to limit the Hawks' (2-4, 0-0 America East) hot shooting, and stuck to the game plan, as Hartford shot just 36 percent from the floor and was 6-27 (22 percent) from three-point range.

Hartford juniors Joe Zeglinski and Joel Barkers both entered the game averaging over 14 points per game each, but the Dartmouth defense held them to just eight points combined.

"I think we played a great defense for two halves," head coach Terry Dunn said.

Not only was the Hawks' 56 points the lowest total surrendered by Dartmouth this season, but it was also well below the Hartford season average of 74 points per game. The Hawks' previous season low for points was 69 in a buzzer-beating loss to Big 12 squad Baylor.

"We really executed on what we wanted to do on defense," Pride said. "We knew they had a couple of good shooters and we really just shut them down."

The Big Green opened the game strong, grabbing an early lead that it would never relinquish. For a stretch in the first half, Pride carried the Dartmouth offense, accounting for all 10 Dartmouth points in a 10-6 run that built the Big Green's lead to 19-10.

Hartford managed to come back and tie the game, but Dartmouth finished the half on a 6-0 run to lead 27-21. The streak included two buckets from forward Clive Weeden '11, who contributed a career-high 12 points along with a game-high eight rebounds.

"I thought [Weeden] played really well," Pride said. "That's going to be really important down the stretch having that rebounding presence that's going to score consistently."

Indeed, rebounding has been a season-long struggle for the Big Green, as the Hartford game marked the only time this season that the team has outrebounded its opponents.

Dartmouth opened the second half with a flurry of three-pointers, concluding with Pride's third three-pointer of the game, which pushed the Big Green's lead to 14.

By the time the clock read 1:54 in the second half, the Big Green held an 18-point advantage.

Hartford didn't go away quietly, though, as the Hawks finally began to find their three-point stroke while Dartmouth struggled to close the game out at the free-throw line. Four threes keyed a quick 12-2 Hartford run that shrank the Big Green lead to just eight with a minute remaining.

Dartmouth righted the ship as Ronnie Dixon '11, David Rufful '12 and Trotter went 8-8 from the line over the final minute to ice the team's first victory of the season.

"They went on runs, but we were able to keep composed under the pressure and come out with a victory," Rufful said.

Rufful was the third Big Green player with a career high, finishing with 15 points on five-of-10 shooting.

Rufful said the key to so many players shooting well Saturday was that everyone was finally able to knock down open shots, an issue that plagued the team in its early-season losses.

"The same shots we had Tuesday night [against Loyola] we had [Saturday] night they just weren't falling [on Tuesday]," Dunn said.

Pride added that getting into a rhythm early made him more comfortable and was a key to his success on Saturday.

"I hit my first couple shots and it gave me a lot of confidence," Pride said.

Dartmouth will take on Vermont at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Leede Arena in the third game of a five-game homestand. After that, the team has an 11-day break between games, its longest of the season, before playing host to Army on Dec. 12.

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