After a historic loss to Princeton, Dartmouth’s men’s basketball team rallies at home to take down Cornell and Columbia
The Big Green are now sixth in the Ivy League standings and just 1.5 games back from fourth.
This weekend, the Dartmouth’s men’s basketball team hosted Cornell University and Columbia University in the final matchup of both season series. After suffering a historic 85-40 road loss to Princeton University last week — the worst loss Dartmouth has sustained against an Ivy League team in 55 years — the Big Green regrouped and took down Cornell 71-59. The following day, the Big Green took down Columbia 79-50. Dartmouth’s wins bring the team to a 4-7 Ivy League record and move it up to sixth in the Ivy League standings.
Against Princeton last weekend, the Big Green could not find its shot. Despite Aaryn Rai ’21 recording team-leading efforts of seven rebounds and 12 points, the team was unable to get the ball moving. In the first half, Dartmouth scored just 13 points to Princeton’s 43, falling into a deep early deficit. The Big Green went 0-8 from behind the arc and shot just 17.39% from the field, resulting in the team’s low point total. In the second half, Dartmouth continued to struggle with its shooting from the perimeter, going 1-12 from three as the Tigers’ lead grew to 49 points multiple times.
“Princeton was a perfect storm of things going bad for us,” Dame Adelekun ’23 said. “I got in foul trouble early, we weren’t making shots and had a few bad bounces. It was a day where things weren’t going our way. It was an ego check, and showed us if you don’t show up, you can get embarrassed. This week, we were more engaged, and really ready to come out and play.”
After the loss put the Big Green just one game ahead of last place in the Ivy League standings, Dartmouth had a week to regroup before taking on Cornell at home on Friday. In a must-win game for the Big Green, it took down the Big Red 71-59.
Having fallen to Cornell 79-71 in the teams’ first meeting of the season, Dartmouth stuck to its game plan to come out on top in the rematch. According to Adelekun, the Big Green aimed to lock down on Cornell’s backdoor cut and transition-focused offense.
The Big Green went on a 7-0 run from the jump, but Cornell responded with a 13-0 run of its own to take the lead. Finishing a relatively low-scoring half down 24-22, the Big Green had its work cut out for it in the second half, when it seemed to finally find its rhythm. Feeding off the energy of the home crowd, Dartmouth took a 10-point lead with 13 minutes left in the game.
As the two teams battled it out, Cornell inched its way back to the lead after a 3-pointer from Sarju Patel and a layup from Sean Hansen put the Big Red up 55-53. However, Taurus Samuels ’22 found his stroke and stepped up for the Big Green. Samuels sank back-to-back contested corner 3s to retake the lead for the rest of the game, shushing Cornell’s bench after the second one.
“I think [those shots] gave us momentum for sure,” Samuels said. “It was a pretty tight game throughout, and we had been in a little bit of a drought, scoring wise, so I think they helped get us back on track and put some more fire underneath us.”
To capitalize on Dartmouth’s momentum and put the Big Green up 66-56 with 49 seconds left, Adelekun slammed down an emphatic dunk and let out a victorious scream to the home crowd.
“That was definitely a big highlight for me,” Adelekun said. “Then the Taurus [Samuels] 3-pointer — and when he gave a little ‘shhhh,’ I thought that was the coolest thing ever.”
As the buzzer sounded with the Big Green up 71-59, Adelekun ran into the stands with a massive smile on his face and began high-fiving all of the students that came out to support the Big Green. In what was a meaningful win for the Big Green that garnered it some momentum, Adelekun led Dartmouth with 19 points against Cornell, going a perfect 7-7 from the field. Rai added to the effort with a double-double, recording 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“I love having fans at the game,” Adelekun said. “Just the feeling of people watching the game and supporting you and being in your corner is amazing. It was so energetic, and we got the dub on our home court for our fans. It was amazing.”
The following night, the Big Green continued to build on its momentum from the second half of the Cornell game against Columbia. The Big Green went up early in the game, holding a 49-30 lead against the Lions by the end of the first half. In the second, Dartmouth held its lead to the buzzer, finishing up 29 points with a score of 79-50.
Brendan Barry ’20 GR led the charge for Dartmouth, scoring 18 points off of six 3-pointers. Barry leads the Ivy League in total 3-pointers made this season with 74, and is third in 3-point percentage with 41.1%.
With the ball rolling on the offensive end, Dartmouth also played a strong defensive game. The Big Green recorded 10 steals, 3 blocks and forced 20 turnovers. Dartmouth owned the glass, earning 47 rebounds (15 offensive and 32 defensive) to Columbia’s 33 (4 offensive and 29 defensive). Dusan Neskovic ’24 led Dartmouth in the rebound column, coming off the bench and grabbing 10 boards.
“We knew we just had to be super patient and play as a team, because eventually, they were gonna give us the shots we wanted,” Rai said. “Defensively, we played with nothing to lose, and they were aggressive off the go, so we were really honed in and took away some of their strengths.”
Despite the ups and downs of this season for the Big Green, this weekend put Dartmouth back in the Ivy League tournament hunt. Just 1.5 games back from fourth in the conference, Dartmouth has an opportunity to move up in the standings this week as the team takes on Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania at home. The last time Dartmouth took on Yale, which is in second in the Ivy League standings, the Big Green fell 72-69. When Dartmouth faced Penn, the Big Green played a competitive game until the last few minutes, during which Penn pulled away to win 78-68.
“We still have a chance to make the Ivy tournament and that means a lot to the guys,” Rai said. “We don’t want to let a chance like this slip away without giving it our best go… We know how good of a team Yale is historically, so we’ll need to play our best and buy in as a team to get it done on Tuesday.”
Following these two matchups, Dartmouth will then play its final game of the regular season at Harvard University, a team to which they lost 60-59 earlier this season after a missed buzzer-beater from Rai. With just three games left in the season and a chip on its shoulder, Dartmouth is in a must-win situation.
“These are three must-win games — like, do or die, all chips on the table, we’re all in,” Samuels said. “We’re playing for our lives for the rest of the season, pretty much. Ultimately, we’re gonna have to do what Dartmouth basketball does and play how Dartmouth basketball plays. Usually, that’s playing together, not backing down, and doing whatever it takes to win a basketball game.”