Adelekun ties Leede Arena scoring record, lifting men’s basketball over Columbia

Posting 41 points, Adelekun was one point away from doubling his former career-high and claiming the record for himself.

by Will Dehmel | 1/30/23 1:05am

Source: Courtesy of Justin Lafleur

When Dame Adelekun ’23 finally exited Leede Arena Saturday night — after autographs had been signed, alumni greeted and the media addressed — he did so wearing a rather odd piece of jewelry.

Dangled around Adelekun’s neck was a basketball net. The net had not been taken down from the rim because it needed fixing. Adelekun, who scored 41 points to tie the Leede Arena record, had clearly earned it.

“This was the first net I’ve ever received in my life,” Adelekun said. “I was signing autographs after the game and someone — I forget who — walked up to me and was like ‘Here you go.’ I was like ‘Dang, this really means a lot.’ This is probably gonna be something I cherish for the entirety of my life.”

Adelekun’s performance Saturday night was nothing short of spectacular, and it helped lift the Big Green to an 83-73 victory, bumping its conference record to 4-3, good for a tie with Yale University for third place in the Ivy League.

But despite all the scoring, Adelekun was not immediately aware of the career-night he was having.

“I was on the bench and I saw 29 at one point, and I was like ‘Dang, I’m scoring a lot right now,’” Adelekun said. “I definitely wish I could have made better free throws. One more free throw and I would’ve broken the record. But beggars can’t be choosers.”

It seemed nobody was more proud of Adelekun’s performance than head coach David McLaughlin, who has based his team’s offensive scheme this season around the star forward.

“We’re an inside-out team,” head coach David McLaughlin said. “We just played through [Adelekun] in various ways the way they were guarding us. He really took his time, he did a nice job changing and getting to angles, and he did a nice job not rushing.”

Adelekun posted 10 rebounds along with his prolific scoring to log his third double-double of the season and had three blocks and drew 14 fouls, resulting in one Lion fouling out and and two others entering foul trouble with four fouls apiece.

“I apply a lot of pressure with my playstyle,” Adelekun said. “I like to drive either way, do a lot of hesitations and explode out of moves. I feel like it's really hard to guard and I feel like they got frustrated for a while and just were trying to stop me — and they just fouled me I guess.”

Adelekun’s dominance did, however, mean that Big Green three-pointers were not in abundance. Of the just 10 that Dartmouth shot, only two went in.

“When someone's completely heating up like that and they just completely can't stop them,  we're kind of just spacing out, letting him get whatever he wants,” Ryan Cornish ’25 said. “And he was cooking them the whole game. So we were just doing our role, letting Dame rock out.”

But when other Dartmouth players did shoot, it was Adelekun’s dominance that made room for them.

“Dame was able to help us space out so much because [Columbia’s] bigs really couldn't help too much,” Cornish said. “One of the drives where they were completely denying Dame, I tried to use that as a screen, and they got a goaltend on that play…We use Dame to our advantage.”

At the end of the first half, the score was tied and the tension tangible. During the first 20 minutes, neither team was able to extend a lead greater than four en route to a 33-33 halftime score.

But in the second half, Dartmouth began to show signs of pulling away. 

Four minutes into the first half, Adelekun put on a nice spin move to find the basket and execute a dunk, putting the Big Green up 43-37. 10 seconds later, Adelekun stalked a Lion’s shifty drive to the basket and swatted the ball away just as it was released, sending the crowd of nearly 1,000 into pandemonium.

With that sequence, Adelekun found himself on SportsCenter for the second time this year. But when Adelekun took a break on the bench following a media timeout, he watched Columbia drain back-to-back three-pointers to kickstart a 10-0 run to put the Lions up 47-43.

“At first I was like, “Ah, they made a three, whatever; they hit another three – we’re good,’” Adelekun said. “But after a while I was like ‘Yeah, let me get back in the game.’ I'm not trying to lose.”

From there, the game remained close until a 6-0 run with 3:30 remaining put Dartmouth up 72-67. 

Two minutes later, up 77-69, McLaughlin and the Big Green watched Columbia score an and one and then use some strong backcourt pressure to force a Cornish turnover.

But unlike last Saturday against Princeton University, facing a comeback, the Big Green maintained its composure.

“I thought the guys were fine,” McLaughlin said. “They didn’t have any type of different look on their face. They were just like, alright, we got to take care of the ball, we got to handle pressure and I thought the belief and that ability to execute right after that possession was key.”

Although the bench was not much of a scoring factor this game — the Big Green reserves only scored eight points, compared to Columbia’s 36 — starters Cornish, Cam Krystkowiak ’23 and Dusan Neskovic ’24 contributed with 16, 12 and nine, respectively, with Krystkowiak also adding seven rebounds.

Dartmouth also stopped a key component to Columbia’s offense by avoiding foul trouble. The Lions were held to just eight attempts from the line, a move McLaughlin had planned.

“We were trying to keep them out of the paint,” McLaughlin said. “When you can really define your hands and play physical basketball without fouling, when it comes down to later in the game, those hard fouls at the end don’t hurt you because they’re not going to the line.”

Most important to this effort was Adelekun, who, by avoiding foul trouble, was on the floor for 31 minutes, a season-high. In the Princeton game, Adelekun fouled out just as the Tigers turned the tide.

“I was probably told you can't foul over 100 times this week,” Adelekun said. “I was really focused like ‘Okay, if I get through the first half with one foul, I can play how I normally play.”

Now sitting in a spot  to make the Ivy League tournament, Dartmouth's performance throughout  its upcoming home stand takes on serious significance. A strong two weeks of games in front of the friendly crowd could position the Big Green to make some noise in the conference postseason tournament in what would be its first-ever appearance, since the tournament was established in 2017.

The Big Green will next take the court at home at 6 p.m. against Brown University on Friday, Feb. 4, and then again at 6 p.m. on Saturday against Yale University. The home stretch will conclude with a chance for revenge against Princeton the following Saturday.