Men’s basketball loses to Princeton 84-80 in another nail-biter

The Big Green currently sit in last place in the Ivy League.

by Jason Norris | 1/24/22 2:10am

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by Caroline Kramer / The Dartmouth

On Saturday, the Dartmouth men’s basketball team took on Ivy League leader Princeton University in their first home game of the new year open to fans. Cheered on by over 300 fans, the Big Green fought hard against the Tigers but failed to close out the game and fell 84-80. Dartmouth is now 1-4 in Ivy League play and 4-12 in a season marked by narrow losses.

The Big Green hung with Princeton throughout the game. Dartmouth played a clean game, accruing only six turnovers and out-rebounding Princeton 37-34. Forward Dame Adelekun ’23 led the team with 12 total rebounds and added 12 points to earn a double-double, while fifth-year guard Aaryn Rai ’21 just missed out on a double-double of his own with nine rebounds and 17 points. Rai’s nine rebounds put him at 507 career rebounds, becoming the 22nd player in program history to break the 500 barrier.

In the first half, the Big Green never trailed, and the team’s nine-point lead with 11:30 left in the half was the biggest lead of the game for either team. As the half wound down, however, the Tigers closed in on Dartmouth and the buzzer sounded with an even 41-41 score.

“I think people really look at the end of the game, but there’s stuff that goes into it before those situations,” Adelekun said. “It’s not the end of the game, it’s when we’re up seven, up six, having big stops and making that run a bit more out of reach.”

Adelekun, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game against Ivy League opponents this year, has recorded two double-doubles this season. Brendan Barry ’20 GR topped the scoring column with 21 points. Against Princeton, the Big Green recorded its second-highest score of the season behind only the 114-74 win over Northern Vermont University, Lyndon. 

The second half against Princeton was a battle. With six lead changes, neither team built more than a six point lead, which Princeton held with 1:40 left to play. Down 80-74, the Big Green’s guards Taurus Samuels ’22 and Barry scored a pair of buckets to close the lead to two with 14 seconds left in the game. Princeton’s Ryan Langborg was able to convert two free throws after an intentional foul, to which Barry responded with another layup to make it 82-80 with six seconds left. After another quick intentional foul by the Big Green, Lanborg converted two more free-throws and cemented the win for Princeton.

“We played well offensively, really shared the ball well and shot it well,” Rai said. “...Kudos to them, but I think we could have done a bit more and made it harder for them.”

The Big Green shot well, going 31 for 63 (49.2%) from the field and 10 for 22 (45.5%) from three. Barry drained three of his seven shots from behind the arc and now has 1,026 points in his Dartmouth career, tying him for 27th all time in program history. 

“It’s a really cool accomplishment,” Barry said. “At the end of the day, I’m here to win and we haven’t really been doing that. With nine games left, that’s my main focus. I credit my teammates and coaches for helping me get here, but like I said, I’m here to win and that will always be the main focus for me.”

Barry also noted the impact of having fans in Leede Arena for the game. After a long stretch of games where only friends and family could attend, Barry said the support from fellow Dartmouth students made an impact.

“We went on a scoring run and the place was rocking,” Barry said. “Throughout my career that hasn’t really happened too often, so I really loved that support and it made a difference. I wish we could have rewarded it with a win.”

Closing out close games remains a problem for the Big Green this season: nine of their 12 losses this season have been decided by 10 points or fewer. However, the team has proven it can go toe-to-toe with top-ranked teams in the Ivy League, suggesting that Dartmouth cannot be written off just yet this season. Adelekun said that the team is focused on getting one percent better every game. 

“We’ve gotta focus on our one-on-one defense, on getting timely stops and not trying to just outscore the other team, versus getting stops and locking people up on defense,” Adelekun said. “That’s when we’re playing our best.”

While the Big Green has proven it can compete with the best, Dartmouth must start winning over the next few games to have a chance at earning one of the four spots in the Ivy League tournament. Sitting in last in the Ivy League, the Big Green has nine games left this season to climb the rankings.

“Everybody’s frustrated,” Rai said. “Especially when you play well enough to win but don’t win. No one really feels sorry for [themselves] and no one is giving us moral victories, so we just have to go out and be better.”

Dartmouth is slated to take on Columbia University next weekend on the road. With the Lions just ahead of the Big Green in the Ivy League standings, Dartmouth will have an opportunity to improve its ranking with a win — and to build momentum before they take on stronger conference opponents in the coming weeks. 

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