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The Dartmouth
April 16, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Adelekun’s SportsCenter Top 10 Play not enough against Cornell in men’s basketball Ivy League opener

The Big Green kept pace into the start of the second half of its Ivy League opener, but Adelekun’s foul trouble led to an insurmountable deficit.

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When Cornell University’s guard found separation on a give-and-go just nine seconds into the second half of Dartmouth’s New Year’s Day Ivy League opener, it was understandable that Dame Adelekun ’23 wanted a breather. Cornell’s offense leads the Ivy League in nearly every offensive statistic, averaging 84 points a game and, as displayed in that moment, continuing to mystify opponents with its passing wizardry.

Or perhaps Adelekun was fearful this contest would be a repeat of last game, when the Big Green had been up 35-28 at the half against University of Massachusetts Amherst and still lost by 11.

Either way, Adelekun’s posture — arms dangling, knees relaxed, a passive viewer to the impending shot — was justifiable, but it certainly didn’t fit with the player Adelekun is as the conference’s current leader in blocked shots.

Except Adelekun wasn’t resting. 

An instant later, the 6’8” senior from Gastonia, North Carolina, was high above the ground, his arms an impenetrable wall to Cornell’s attacker, grabbing the shot right out of the air with both hands. In no time, the ball was downcourt, in prime position for Dartmouth, down 37-36, to retake the lead.

While Adelekun’s block was enough to warrant a SportsCenter Top 10 feature, it was not enough for the win. Ultimately, Dartmouth fell 74-63, watching its one point halftime deficit continually expand as its once-high-powered offense stuttered in the second.

And if Adelekun gave Dartmouth the spark it needed to contend with the Big Red, his foul trouble doused it.

Two minutes into the second half, Adelekun found himself with three personal fouls, enough for head coach David McLaughlin to give him a breather — this time a real one.

At that point, Cornell went on a 12-3 run, putting them up by 10 points with 13 minutes remaining. The Big Green made multiple efforts to claw back into the game, especially once Adelekun returned, reducing the deficit to six points several times before getting within four with four minutes remaining.

Cornell allowed Dartmouth to return within four once more, but a late 9-2 run in the final few minutes ensured the Big Red victory.

When Adelekun sat back in a chair postgame — his hands bracing the armrests, a tired, blank look on his face — this time his posture hid nothing.

“Yeah, it was definitely frustrating,” Adelekun said. “Foul trouble has definitely been a theme throughout the year. Just gotta be smarter. I felt like most of the fouls were in my control – I know I’m a key point to what we’re trying to do this year, so I just can’t get in foul trouble.”

Despite only playing 21 minutes, Adelekun proved he’s ready for the rest of the season, leading the team with 14 points and 10 rebounds, his fifth career double-double and second this season.

“[In non-conference play], I feel like for a good stretch I played [tall] bigs the whole entire time,” Adelekun said. “I felt pretty used to the physicality of those types of guys, so I feel like it prepared me going into this game. I felt like I was on a bigger level of physicality than them.”

Despite Adelekun’s second-half detour to the bench, McLaughlin and forward Cam Krystkowiak ’23, whose 11 points tied his season high, still think the Big Green should have held its own.

“At the end of the day, I still trust the guys coming off the bench to contribute,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s tough sometimes to have to watch from the bench…but we’re gonna be alright either way.”

“They were getting into the paint a little more than we would like, and yeah, Dame does make a difference down there,” McLaughlin said. “But some of those plays we need to learn how to finish as a group.”

In the postgame press conference, McLaughlin spoke about missed opportunities, pointing out that despite the defense holding Cornell to its second lowest field goal percentage of the season, the Big Green could not execute offensively.

“When you defend a team like that, you have to do a couple things,” McLaughlin said. “You gotta finish plays. There were three or four plays in the second half where we didn’t finish, where we had very good defensive stops and we just didn’t stop the rebound.”

The Big Green started off well early in the game, going up 5-0 en route to a 17-10 lead. Dartmouth also found its points coming from a wide array of players, including nine from Jackson Munro ’26 and Izaiah Robinson ’24, as well as 11 from Ryan Cornish ’25.

Ultimately, the offense faltered in the second half, finding itself unable to keep possession.

“The only way to counter that is you have to get great shots every time down,” McLaughlin said. “When you turn the ball over 20 times, you can’t get great shots every time down.”

With the loss, Dartmouth has now ceded six straight games and falls to 0-1 in conference play — a disappointing 4-11 on the season. Even so, the Big Green shot 47.4% from the field, surpassing its season average so far. That number could have been higher if Dartmouth, which made only 23.1% of its three-pointers (6-of-26), shot more accurately from behind the arc.

Moving out of Leede Arena, the Big Green now turns its sights to away games at Yale University and Brown University, which it will play on Friday and Saturday, respectively.