Men's basketball drops weekend games at home

by Alexander Agadjanian | 1/31/16 7:30pm

Men's basketball took on Cornell at home this past weekend.
by Seamore Zhu / The Dartmouth

Fresh off of a three-game win streak that revitalized optimism for the season, the Dartmouth men’s basketball team collapsed back into the doldrums during this past weekend of action. Thoroughly outplayed by Columbia University (15-6, 4-0) in a 77-60 loss on Friday night, the Big Green (7-11, 1-3) then fell apart and lost a lead down the stretch on Saturday to fall 77-73 to Cornell University (9-9, 2-2), concluding a five-game homestand on a decidedly sour note.

Yet one bright spot did emerge over the two-game set, as forward Connor Boehm ’16 reached 1,000 points for his Dartmouth career with a layup during the first half against Cornell. Broader team struggles, however, overshadowed the milestone for the senior.

“You don’t play to score points, you play to win games,” Boehm said. “So it’s obviously a cool thing to be mentioned among a lot of great players here at Dartmouth, but I wish it could’ve come on a better night.”

In the first contest, Columbia dominated the early stages and never looked back, demonstrating the talent disparity that has elevated it to the elite tier of the conference. With Dartmouth toiling on offense, the Lions leaped out to a 10-0 run in the game’s first four minutes.

After the Big Green fought back to get within six, the visitors responded with an even more expansive surge. Over a five-minute span, Columbia exploited a ruptured Dartmouth defense in a 19-2 burst, making for the bleakest of scorelines at 32-9 with 8:30 left in the half.

A balanced assortment of offensive production led the way for the Lions, as four different players reached double-digit scoring. Star senior guard and the Ivy League’s best three-point shooter Maodo Lo perfectly blended three-point prowess — 3-for-8 from deep — with strong drives to the basket to post 16 points. Grant Mullins matched that output, and Alex Rosenberg chipped in 14 off the bench in just 19 minutes. Sticking true to their sharpshooting identity, Columbia thrived on the long-range shot, converting 10-for-25 from three.

For the home team, Evan Boudreaux ’19 continued to solidify his role as an offensive leader, topping Big Green scorers with 15 — almost entirely off attacking the rim — to go with seven boards, showing his refined rebounding ability several times along the way.

The two sides engaged in a foul-heavy contest as well, with the Big Green committing 26 and going to the line 31 times, and the Lions fouling 27 times and seeing 36 free throw attempts.

For the second week in a row, turnovers plagued Dartmouth on offense. While the miscues evened out in the slugfest against Harvard University last Saturday, the same tendency wrought considerable damage on offensive rhythm against a better team. The Big Green committed nine turnovers in the first half and 20 by the end of the night — nine more than the Lions. Many of the miscues would be better classified as unforced. As a whole, the turnovers consistently sapped away offensive possessions.

Nevertheless, Dartmouth found some life towards the end of the first half. A 15-4 push — fueled by drives to the rim and visits to the free throw line — over the final five minutes cut the deficit to 42-32. After such an awful half, the finish represented a small victory.

Yet it would go largely in vain, as the Big Green failed to capitalize on and extend this surge following the halftime break.

“I think we started to get it inside, and we started to have success,” Boudreaux noted about the late first half comeback. “That was our game plan. [But] we went away from that for whatever reason [in the second half].”

For a few minutes, it seemed guard Miles Wright ’18 — severely underutilized as of late — was entering a hot streak. Drilling two threes in a short span cut the deficit to single digits. But Columbia quickly stemmed the tide, and after Wright missed his next three, he got just one more shot all game.

Columbia would go on to permanently stave off Dartmouth, restoring a lead that hovered around 20 points before finishing with a 77-60 triumph.

Less than 24 hours later, the Big Green faced a more even level of competition against Cornell. Grabbing the upper side of the scoreboard for 30 of the total 40 minutes on the night, and at one point midway through the second half leading 58-46, Dartmouth utterly broke down in the latter stages of the game.

After Cornell shot out to a 7-0 run in less than a minute around the eight-minute mark to cut it to a possession game, Dartmouth responded with an 8-1 run of its own — seemingly staving off the visitors’ last gasp effort. Yet the comeback trail hardly ceased for the Big Red. Trailing 70-61 at the 3:43 mark, Cornell would finish the game on a 16-3 surge. Such a comeback was especially unique, as instead of the typical field goal hot streak, all but two of these final points for the Big Red came entirely at the free throw line.

Stellar freshman Matt Morgan sank nine of 12 free throws during this stretch, and went 17-23 at the charity stripe for the whole game, adding three deep balls to lead all scorers with 32. Coming off a 33-point performance the night before in a win against Harvard, Morgan has now admirably picked up the slack in the absence of Cornell’s injured top scorer Robert Hatter.

For Dartmouth, Boehm reached 22 points on his career night, and Boudreaux scored 24 points to match with 16 boards for another excellent showing.

Forty-two of the Big Green’s points — and essentially all 17 of its free throw makes — emanated from the paint, accounting for much of the home’s team successes on Saturday. Overwhelming drives to the rim built up comfortable leads in the early parts of both halves, with Boudreaux in particular scoring and drawing contact at will near the basket.

Turnovers and poor jumpshooting — as evidenced by a putrid 2-17 mark from three — threw the offense off course. At the end of the first half, a 19-8 finish by Cornell swung the balance as it went ahead 41-35 at the break. After reclaiming an edge shortly after halftime, Dartmouth floundered down the stretch again, neither able to halt Cornell’s surge nor return to offensive competency itself.

“I felt we had the spirit and will tonight to win,” head coach Paul Cormier said on Saturday. “Last night [against Columbia], I question that a little bit [and] putting in the work to get it done. Tonight I thought we did, but we didn’t make plays down the stretch.”

The Big Green will now travel away from Hanover to play the University of Pennsylvania at 6 p.m. next Saturday, and Princeton University the following night at the same time.