Big Green basketball exacts revenge on Canisius, winning 80-69

by Alexander Agadjanian | 1/13/16 6:30pm

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Seamore Zhu/The Dartmouth Staff

Trailing for the majority of the first half and suffering from an overwhelming interior presence posed by its opponent, Dartmouth looked to be in trouble early on last Tuesday night against Canisius College. Nevertheless, a strong finish to the opening half produced a small lead, which was quickly expanded in the second period as the Big Green (5-9 overall, 0-1 Ivy) decisively took control. Ultimately the Big Green knocked off the visiting Golden Griffins (7-10 overall, 2-4 MAAC) by a count of 80-69.

Wrapping up its second-to-last non-conference game on its home Leede Arena floor, Dartmouth also snapped a three-game losing skid in the process.

Four different Big Green players finished with double-digit scoring — a testament to the offensive balance coaches and players alike identify as central to success.

“That was a solid Ivy League-type team,” head coach Paul Cormier said. “We have to use [this game] as a platform now, that this is us, this is our identity.”

Rookie phenom Evan Boudreaux ’19 paved the way with 19 points off 10-12 shooting from the line.

Moreover, much of the point production in the night emanated from the charity stripe: the Big Green made 28 of 35 free throw attempts. Though 12 of those tries came in the final 2:40 of the game — including several due to intentional fouls by the visitors — the broader significance was the ability to draw contact on drives to and post-ups at the rim. In turn, this forced Canisius players into foul trouble, stripping a team ripe with big men of some of its valuable interior strength.

A sharp touch from the field — demonstrated by an in-game season high field goal percentage of .535 — also fueled the Dartmouth offense that scored its second-highest scoring total of the season. Such a precise touch, however, should not give the impression of excessive shot-taking near the rim in place of lower-percentage, higher-reward shots on the perimeter. The Big Green made six three-pointers, and in shooting .462 from long range, far exceeded their three-point percentage entering the game of .345.

Accordingly, the next three top scorers for Dartmouth on Tuesday — Miles Wright ’18 with 14 points, Kevin Crescenzi ’16 with 13, and Connor Boehm ’16 with 11 — all posted shooting percentages better than 50 percent. Crecsenzi specifically displayed utmost efficiency, needing a mere 17 minutes of action — well below his season average and only seventh most on the team for the night — to go 2-3 from three-point land and 3-4 from the foul line to net his 13 total points.

While the rebounding stats won’t really show it, Boehm played a fundamental role on the boards for the team. In an excellent job of boxing out and constantly battling for the ball underneath the rim, Boehm spearheaded the effort of cutting into Canisius’s dominance on the glass.

“I relish that role,” Boehm said about jostling in the paint for rebound control. “I’m not the longest guy or jump the highest, but if you tell me to go push somebody out of bounds, I like that, I can do that. So that’s what coach told me at halftime, he says, ‘I don’t care if you get another rebound for the rest of the half, I don’t want [them] getting another one.’ And I embraced that role.”

That mentality of greater attention to rebounding was quickly thrown into relief in the early stages of the game — defined by dominance on the boards by Canisius. The visitors scored on each of their first three possessions of the game, all of which came on second chance points, in addition to grabbing six offensive rebounds in just over the first two minutes of play. Towering 6’11” center Kevin Bleeker led the effort with three of them, eventually compelling Cormier to insert more size into the lineup.

While the Dartmouth defense managed to force more stops, the Golden Griffins accumulated an overpowering edge on the boards by halftime. On top of outrebounding the home side 20-13, leading 12-4 in offensive rebounds, and creating 10 second chance points, Canisius saw more than half of its point total — 16 of 31 — come inside the paint during the first 20 minutes.

After finding itself in a five-point hole eight minutes into the game, the Big Green quickly rattled off a 7-0 run to briefly snatch a lead before Canisius capitalized on its post play dominance once again in rebuilding a comfortable edge. Yet all it took was the few remaining minutes in the half for Dartmouth’s Cresscenzi to heat up from deep, converting two three’s down the stretch. The last of those long balls granted Dartmouth a 33-31 lead that it would hold entering the break, despite having only possessed an edge for 2:23 of the total 20 minutes.

In one of the most crucial developments of the contest, that momentum heading into halftime transferred to and even grew in the second half. Unyielding on defense to the point of forcing Canisius into four turnovers in the first four minutes of the new half, Dartmouth jumped out with an 8-0 run to generate a 41-31 lead — the largest of the game at that point for either side.

“What really did it for us was going into the first timeout [of the second half], they hadn’t scored a point yet,” Boehm said. “We were playing excellent team defense. That’s something we’ve been working on all week since Harvard — talking, helping each other out. It’s not you against your man on defense, it’s all five [involved].”

No instance grew that advantage more than self-inflicted damage by Canisius. Nearing the eight-minute mark, forward Jermaine Crumpton received a technical foul for a verbal altercation with the officials, and then another when he continued his complaints, resulting in his ejection from the game. Boudreaux made all four of the gifted technical foul free throws, bolstering a 62-47 lead — the largest point spread of the evening.

“A lot of it came down to knocking down free throws, just staying calm,” Boudreaux said. “There was a stretch where it got a little wild, [but] we settled down and were able to pull it out.”

Dartmouth will resume play later this week, when it welcomes a high-scoring Division III school in Pine Manor College to Leede Arena at 3 p.m. on Saturday.