Men’s basketball’s tournament hopes squashed despite 84-70 win over Penn
Aaryn Rai ’21 led the Big Green against the University of Pennsylvania with a career-high 27 points on senior night.
Men's basketball is now eliminated from Ivy League conference tournament contention.
On Saturday, Dartmouth’s men’s basketball team took on the University of Pennsylvania for its senior night at home in the Big Green’s penultimate game of the season. Heading into the game, Dartmouth needed to win in order to keep its hopes of an Ivy League tournament berth alive. The Big Green did just that, defeating Penn 84-70. However, Princeton University’s win over Harvard University on Sunday erased Dartmouth’s chances of making the Ivy League tournament.
Against Penn, Aaryn Rai ’21 opened up scoring for the Big Green, scoring a layup and sinking a 3-pointer in back-to-back possessions to put the Big Green up 5-2. After the two teams traded leads throughout the first nine minutes of the game, Brendan Barry ’20 GR assisted Dame Adelekun ’23 on a layup to give the Big Green a lead that never disappeared. Rai’s 10 points in the first half led the Big Green to a 38-35 lead at the break.
To start the second half, Rai continued his hot streak with his second 3-pointer of the night. Rai then scored two more buckets for the Big Green to extend Dartmouth’s lead. Throughout the second half, Dartmouth continued to rely on its 3-point shooting, with Barry, Garrison Wade ’22, Taurus Samuels ’22 and Wes Slajchert ’22 all nailing clutch attempts to extend the lead.
“We really played tough and took care of the basketball,” head coach David McLaughlin said. “Beyond that, I thought we executed at a high level in terms of our decision making and paying attention to the details. That execution when you’re playing tough is gonna get you wins.”
Slajchert’s younger brother, Clark, led Penn in scoring with 18 points in the absence of Jordan Dingle, who leads the league in scoring. Despite the younger Slajchert’s efforts, Dartmouth managed to close out the second half — something the team has struggled with all season — and win 84-70 against a top-three team in the Ivy League.
“It’s not like we’ve never been in any of these games against good teams,” Rai said. “It was just good to pull it out against a good team — especially at the end of the year, when we’ve learned from all the mistakes we made in the games earlier in the season.”
Rai ended the game with a career-high 27 points, which included a season-high three 3-pointers and a double-double with 11 rebounds. Samuels, Barry, Adelekun and Wade also recorded double-digit performances for Dartmouth.
The win made senior night extra memorable for the Big Green.
“At the end of the game when all five [seniors] were on the court and knowing that would be the last time walking off of Leede with four of my best friends, that’s when it set in for me,” Barry said. “It was just a cool moment and something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
After the win, Dartmouth was still in contention to make it to the Ivy League tournament, but after Princeton beat Harvard by one point on Sunday, the team’s chances were eliminated. Despite this, Coach McLaughlin still views the game against Harvard this weekend as a big opportunity for the program. The last time the teams went head-to-head, Dartmouth lost by just one point off of a missed buzzer-beater from Rai.
“We’re preparing to win this game, and if things break the right way, we can finish tied for fourth in the league, which is a big accomplishment as we continue to build this program,” McLaughlin said.
After a season plagued by close losses for the Big Green, the team is looking to end it on a high note against Harvard. In Dartmouth’s last six losses, five of them have been within a five-point margin, with the sixth being a 45-point loss to Princeton. For Barry, who came back to Dartmouth to finish out his eligibility after playing a year at Temple University, the season was disappointing.
“I thought we had the talent to be top four, and I still think that, and it’s just possessions early in the Ivy season that we didn’t capitalize on,” Barry said. “The whole point of me coming back was to at least be in the top four and have a shot to make the NCAA tournament so I’d say my sentiment is just disappointed. Unfortunately that’s just how basketball works sometimes. It can be evil like that. I can’t say we didn’t have our chance and that’s just something I’ve gotta live with.”
Despite the disappointment of the season, Barry still managed to make his way into Dartmouth’s 1,000 point club and is currently tied for second on Dartmouth’s all-time 3-pointers made list with 240 — just two behind Jim Barton ’89’s record with one game left in the season. After finishing out his six-year college basketball career, Barry plans to continue playing professionally overseas. Rai, who is a fifth-year, also plans to play professionally next year.
With the team losing five seniors at the end of this season, McLaughlin is preparing for an important offseason. Despite losing a lot of experience and leadership with its seniors, the Big Green has nine young players who played in their first college season this year returning, led by Izaiah Robinson ’24 and Ryan Cornish ’25.
“We have a really talented core of returning players so this has to be the best spring off season we’ve had since I’ve been here,” McLaughlin said. “That means paying attention to detail and executing on and off the court and taking that collective love of the game the guys have and collectively improving.”