Men’s basketball earns second Ivy League win of the season at Columbia
The Big Green’s win against the Lions puts them a game back from fourth in the Ivy League.
The Dartmouth men’s basketball team traveled to New York on Saturday to take on Columbia University. Sitting at last in the Ivy League before Saturday’s matchup, Dartmouth stepped up and took down the Lions 76-63 in what was a crucial win for the Big Green’s conference tournament chances. After the victory in New York, the Big Green sit at sixth place in the conference — just a game back from the final spot in the Ivy League playoffs — with a 2-4 Ivy League and 5-12 overall record.
The Big Green trailed for most of the first half. Columbia jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead after answering Aaryn Rai ’21’s game-opening bucket with a 10-0 run, but Dartmouth answered with an 8-0 run of their own to even the score at 10. As the teams continued to battle it out, Garrison Wade ’22 sunk three treys in one minute to pull Dartmouth ahead at the 5:26 mark. After that, the Big Green held the lead for the remainder of the game.
“We’re not going to underestimate the opponent — you never do that,” Izaiah Robinson ’24 said. “Especially after the tough losses against Princeton and Harvard, we’re going to come in hungry, ready to execute and ready to fight and make a push [for the playoffs], and hopefully this will be the turnaround of our season.”
The Big Green went into halftime with a 35-30 lead. With neither Brendan Barry ’20 GR nor Taurus Samuels ’22 — two of the team’s three leading scorers — converting until 17 minutes into the game, Dartmouth’s depth showed. Players coming off the bench like Robinson and Cam Krystkowiak ’23 helped the Big Green stay in it in the first half.
After a competitive first half, the Big Green went on a 10-0 run in a three minute span near the start of the second. With strong early play from Dame Adelekun ’23, Dartmouth was able to increase its lead and did not let up for a second.
Head coach David McLaughlin noted that a big emphasis against Columbia was the focus on what he called “kill shots.”
“Before the game, one of our staff members wrote ‘kill shots’ on the board,” McLaughlin said. “When we’re up three or six, [we have to] make the next shot so [the other team] can’t cut it to two or tie the game. We did a great job with kill shots, having the game go from two possessions to three possessions and so on.”
Dartmouth kept its foot on the gas, growing the lead to 16 with two minutes left in the game. The Big Green backed up its relentless offense with equally strong defense — Columbia could only muster seven points in the first seven minutes of the half. Dartmouth’s ability to take advantage of defensive breakdowns by the Lions all throughout the second half made it difficult for Columbia high-scorers Ike Nweke and Liam Murphy to lead the Lions in a comeback. The Big Green closed out their first win in the last four games, and second in the last 13.
“The main thing is that it’s more about us, we have to come together because we are the ones out there,” said Robinson. “[Coach McLaughlin] can give us the perfect scouting report or anything to help prepare for the game, but it comes down to us and taking ownership of that. We are aware of where we are at and we have made some strides, but right now it’s about finishing the goal, finishing the game, finishing everything. After that, once we get into a rhythm, everything will turn around.”
Saturday’s winning effort enlisted the help of a range of Big Green players, with four scoring in double digits. Rai was the star of the show, leading the team with 20 points, three steals and two assists. He was seemingly unstoppable in the second half, going a near-perfect 7-8 in the field for 18 of his 20 points. Wade added 11 points to the effort, and Adelekun cashed in 12 while also leading the team with six rebounds. Despite his early struggles, Barry found his shot and delivered with 13 points.
The Big Green has struggled to close out close games throughout the season; Most recently, the team lost 60-59 to Harvard University on a missed buzzer-beater and 84-80 to Princeton last weekend. Coach McLaughlin emphasized that a major focus for the team this week was to hold firm in crunch time and close games.
“We were able to finish off this game,” Adelekun said. “A lot of times we lose the lead or are behind, but today we were able to pull ahead and win. As for confidence, a lot of games we lose by a few points, so it’s a change in mindset of being good enough to play close games with anybody versus we can actually win.”
After Saturday’s win, Dartmouth is in the mix for a spot in the Ivy League tournament. Sitting at sixth in the Ivy League standings, just a game back from fourth, Dartmouth (2-4 Ivy League) is looking to take down No. 7 Brown University (2-5 Ivy League) and No. 2 Yale University (4-1 Ivy League) on the road this week.
“[This win] makes us know that we can use these previous games as lessons,” Adelekun said. “We now have the optimism and experience to prepare us for future games. I feel confident about the Yale matchup, if we can execute the game plan. I’m excited for the next road trip and hopefully we can come away with some big dubs.”
The Big Green will be looking to continue their solid play and rack up another win when they play Yale on Friday. The win against Columbia could prove to be the momentum shift the Big Green needs to earn an Ivy League playoff berth as the team prepares to face a stream of tough conference opponents to close out the season.