Men’s basketball drops home conference opener to Harvard, 70-66

by Devan Fink | 1/27/20 2:20am

1-27-20-basketball2-lonagirardin

Aaryn Rai scored 16 points in the Big Green's loss to Harvard on Saturday.

by Lona Girardin / The Dartmouth

From the onset of Saturday’s game, 3-point shooting proved to be the differentiator between Dartmouth (7-10, 0-2 Ivy) and Harvard University (13-4, 2-0 Ivy) men’s basketball, with the Big Green falling just short, 70-66.

The Crimson came out firing on all cylinders behind the arc, hitting on all of their first three possessions to start the game. They ultimately opened up an early seven-point lead behind two triples each from Justin Bassey and Noah Kirkwood.

“It was a big boost for us coming out of the blocks knocking down open shots,” said Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker. “I thought those guys set the tone for us early.”

Dartmouth tried to match, initially succeeding with James Foye ’20 and Ian Sistare ’20 each draining 3s of their own to keep pace. Foye’s first triple was the 100th of his college career.

But then it got ugly. The Big Green could not buy a 3-pointer for over 26 minutes of game time, missing 15 consecutive shots beyond the arc in that stretch. Incredibly, however, the team hung around, at least for the duration of the first half, entering halftime down just one point, 34-33.

“What you gotta do is, you have to look at those 3s, and you have to say, ‘Okay, how good of shots were they?’” said Dartmouth head coach David McLaughlin. “‘Were the right guys shooting them? Were they the threes that they wanted us to take? Were they off inside-out plays? Were they off penetration? Were they off transition?’ If they’re good 3s, then you’re happy. And if they’re not great shots, then you let guys know.”

Much of the reason why Dartmouth remained so close was due to the stellar first-half play from Taurus Samuels ’22, who scored 12 points in 19 minutes, shooting four-of-seven from the field. The Crimson kept the Big Green in the game with a plethora of fouls, and Samuels was the most common victim. In the first half alone, he attempted five free throws, which is tied for his third-highest game total this season. 

“He had a very good night,” McLaughlin said. “He’s a really good player. He loves his craft. He loves getting better at his game. He’s growing as a leader, so tonight was a good night for him.”

On the whole, Harvard played a clean game for the first portion of the contest, going without a team foul for the half’s first nine minutes. They ended the period with nine fouls in the last 11, however, and the Big Green made them pay, making seven of its eight free throws in the first half and 12-of-16 overall. This success from the line was uncharacteristic for Dartmouth, as the team came in shooting just 65.1 percent from the stripe, ranking 312th out of the 353 Division I teams. 

“We’ll look at the film and try to chart silly fouls,” Amaker said. “The game is hard not to foul at all, but the silly ones are the ones we want to correct and stay away from. Most of the time, they’re silly because we lose concentration, we lose focus, or just [have] poor positioning.”

In the second half, Dartmouth’s lack of success from long range ultimately came back to bite it. By the time Samuels ended the team’s 3-point drought, Harvard had already built a sizable lead. Kirkwood and Bassey continued to do damage — the former hit three more 3s in the second, leading all Harvard players with 17 points. His five 3s tied his college career-high. 

It appeared as if the Crimson would cruise to an easy victory after that. Harvard built its largest lead of the game, 13, with 1:16 left. Amazingly, yet again, late fouling from the Big Green proved to be quite successful. Harvard went two-of-six from the line in the game’s final 60 seconds, and thanks to some clutch 3s, a quick offensive pace and a stroke of good luck with a Crimson turnover, Dartmouth had the ball with just over five seconds left in the game, down four. That would be how the game wrapped up, however, with the Big Green unable to get the necessary quick shot off the inbound pass to give the team any chance to win.

“It was kind of in a weird spot on the court,” Foye said. “We got it in, [Danilo] Djuricic was kinda taking away my 3, so I thought I could drive it quick. I just missed the layup. I think the real problem is when you start down 10 with a minute, everything has to go exactly correct, and going forward, we have to put ourselves in positions where we don’t need a miracle.”

Samuels led all scorers in the game with 18 points on six-of-15 shooting in 38 minutes, adding six rebounds and two assists. One week after wreaking havoc on the score sheet against the Big Green in Cambridge, Harvard forward Chris Lewis had another efficient night, scoring 13 points and adding nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Aaryn Rai ’21 also had a solid evening, scoring 16 points with seven rebounds and two steals. 

With two consecutive losses to Harvard to begin conference play, Dartmouth now sits in the basement of the Ivy League. The schedule does not get much easier in the immediate future, however, with four road games up on the docket in the next two weeks, as the Big Green travel to face Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University and Yale University. College basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy does not expect Dartmouth to come away victorious in any of these matchups, with the Big Green’s highest individual game win probability being at Brown on Feb. 7, at just 39 percent. 

“You just have to get ready on Monday,” McLaughlin said regarding the Big Green’s upcoming schedule. “If you start thinking about that, it’s going to shade the way you’re starting to prep for the next game. You just gotta get ready for Friday.” 

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