Mitchell-Day’s late-game block secures comeback victory against Penn

Down 13 early in the second half, the Big Green clawed back for the win thanks to strong defense and bench depth.

by Will Dehmel | 1/20/23 1:15am

Source: Dame Adelekun '23

It was a look that only athletes could understand. A look that possessed power largely because of how insignificant it seemed.

The look, after all, was at eye level — little movement was required. But as the 6’8” senior forward stood up to embrace his 6’8” freshman protégé, for a moment the silence and stillness vanished.

“You’re a shot blocker too, now,” Dame Adelekun ’23 told Brandon Mitchell-Day ’26, pulling him closer in a hug.

The two had finally escaped the clamor of Leede Arena, and the silence seemed a necessary respite after the thriller they had just starred in.

30 minutes earlier, Adelekun and Mitchell-Day’s success story — a 75-71 victory over Ivy League preseason favorite the University of Pennsylvania — seemed improbable. But that was before Dartmouth clawed back from a 13-point deficit, and long before Mitchell-Day’s block at the 37-second mark ensured the fairytale came true.

With 45 seconds remaining and six on the shot clock, Penn inbounded the ball down 72-71, hoping to keep its chances alive. The ball found its way to one Quaker; was passed to another; and then was hurled up as the shot clock expired.

That could’ve been the end — a Dartmouth rebound would have all but ensured it — but the ball found its way to the same Penn player who had shot it. He found his teammate, just feet from the basket, with a seemingly easy shot.

That was, of course, had Mitchell-Day not been lying in wait. The blocked shot bounced its way into Adelekun’s waiting hands, and Dartmouth made three of its next four free throws to lock up the Big Green victory.

“The block was terrific,” head coach David McLaughlin said. “What you see is what you get with him. That’s what he is. That’s how he practices every day. It’s complete energy, it’s reckless abandon — but in a good way — and he’s just gonna compete.”

The final score, 75-71, was Dartmouth’s largest lead of the contest. In total, they held a lead for only three minutes of Saturday’s game. The score at the end, though, is all that matters.

The game started out close. Dartmouth led 34-32 with 5:15 remaining in the first half until Penn went on an 11-0 run to drive the score to 43-34 and its field goal percentage to 60.7%.

Dartmouth refused to enter halftime down nine, though. As time expired, Iziah Robinson ’24 hit a clutch three-pointer to recapture some momentum and pull the deficit within six.

“I thought that was great,” McLaughlin said of Robinson’s three. “[Penn] ended the half on a little bit of a run, and that’s great momentum.”

A 5-0 Penn run stuck Dartmouth with a 13-point deficit just four minutes into the second. But Dartmouth quickly executed a scoring spurt of its own, scoring eight unanswered points to make the score 54-51 with 11:50 remaining.

In the second half, Penn shot just 31% from the field and 0-13 from behind the arc. Dartmouth’s 42.9% wasn’t elite, but it was enough, and in a game like Saturday’s, enough sufficed.

“We were pretty clear with our message at halftime about what we needed to do defensively a little differently,” McLaughlin said. “[Our] goal was to protect the inside and to protect the three-point line… They make you defend both, and that’s a sign of a really good team.”

Adelekun, who scored 12 points and added six rebounds and two blocks, emphasized the Big Green’s toughness on the boards.

“We started playing really tough,” Adelekun said. “I was on the glass, [Mitchell-Day] was on the glass, [Cam Krystkowiak ’23] was on the glass, so it gave us the edge. And I feel like Penn was playing the guys for a lot of minutes.”

Adelekun could not have been more on point. Throughout the game, only six of Penn’s players contributed points compared with 10  of Dartmouth’s. In the end, the Big Green bench outscored Penn’s 28-5.

“Our coaches preach day in and day out that people have to be ready to step up,” Mitchell-Day said. “So we just had the coaches giving us that confidence. Giving us the tools and the things to execute of that nature is really what helps our bench be so productive… Everyone knowing their role is what helps our bench produce.”

Key to the Big Green’s second-half success was holding Penn’s Jordan Dingle, who ranks second in the nation and first in the Ivy League in points per game, to only 14 — his lowest scoring output of the season. 

Dartmouth also held Clark Slajchert, the conference’s third leading scorer, to just eight points.

“You cannot stop players like that,” McLaughlin said. “There’s just — there’s no way to do it… They’re too talented, they run too many good actions…You just [have to] make it hard so they have to take difficult shots or [make] difficult decisions with the ball. And hopefully that wears on them throughout the game.”

Robinson, who was tasked with the job of guarding Dingle, played phenomenally, holding him to just six shots in the first half.

Also significant to the Big Green victory was sophomore guard Ryan Cornish ’25, who scored 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and shot a perfect five for five on free throws. Mitchell-Day added 10 points to the total while Jackson Munro ’26 and Robinson each had nine.

The Big Green players said that they were looking to carry their momentum into Monday, when they played Harvard University at 2 p.m. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“We definitely have a lot of confidence going in since the last time we played them and the large victory we had there,” Adelekun said, referencing the 76-54 victory on March 2 of last year. “I feel very confident.”

But Adelekun and the team were missing something that was certainly valuable to them Saturday: The home crowd, which, 855-strong, was louder than ever.

“Our teammates are going to have to be our home crowd on the bench,” Mitchell-Day had said. “We have to encourage each other, cheer for each other.” 

That confidence proved valuable, as the Big Green pulled out a one-point victory on the road. Dartmouth entered the second half up eight — and never trailed in the game — but had to fight off a ferocious late-game charge from the Crimson to secure the victory.

Dartmouth has now won two straight and three of its last four, advancing to third in the Ivy League with a conference record of 3-2 — the first time the Big Green has held that record or better through five games since the 2008-2009 season.

Dartmouth next takes the court on the road against Princeton University Jan. 21, and will look to carry its momentum from these close wins into a strong performance in New Jersey.