With losses at Cornell and Columbia, men’s basketball likely to miss Ivy League tournament
Dartmouth fell in both road games this weekend, effectively ending hopes for an Ivy League tournament bid.
There was something haunting about the way Dame Adelekun’s ’23 buzzer beater attempt bounced off the rim and into the open air Friday night.
Like the team’s performance against the Big Red, the ball’s arc looked promising. Tied 80-80, Dartmouth was moments away from taking down Cornell University and bringing its conference record back over .500.
“It felt good,” Adelekun said. “I thought it was in. I truly did.”
But this week, the rim didn’t agree.
Dartmouth went on to lose 95-82 in overtime against Cornell on Friday night, and then dropped a frustrating game to Columbia University on Saturday, 71-65.
Now, Adelekun can only hope his missed shot doesn’t end up perfectly encapsulating the Big Green’s 2022 campaign. Despite a promising beginning to conference play — two Adelekun double-doubles, his 41-point Columbia performance and his 1.9 blocks per game — the season’s ending now looks quite disappointing
Dartmouth now finds itself exactly where voters had predicted it would be in preseason polling: seventh. The season is now unlikely to include a trip to the Ivy League tournament, and far less likely to include the coveted spot in March Madness that awaits the winner of the conference tournament.
The honeymoon, it seems, is over.
But both games were certainly not absent opportunity. The first half of the Cornell game saw five lead changes and six ties, and although Cornell was able to enter the locker room up six, a 10-2 run to start the second half gave the Big Green a two-point advantage.
A few minutes before Adelekun had put up his final shot against Cornell on Friday, Dartmouth had been down five points. It was only because of late-game dominance — scoring nine of the final 13 points in regulation — that the Big Green was able to force overtime.
“It was a fight,” head coach David McLaughlin said. “It was a fight both ways, which you get this time of year in games that are very important…I thought our guys made quite the run at the end. I thought we put ourselves in a position to win the game. They got a nice stop on the last possession, and we had a decent look that went in and out.”
But in overtime the Big Green did not resemble the team that had forced the additional time, shooting a mere 1-9 from the field to let the game slip out of its hands, 95-82.
“When we went to overtime, the first one or two possessions didn’t go our way,” McLaughlin said. “And I thought we lost our steam and togetherness a little bit…Especially towards the end of the game, you gotta stay together, you gotta stay tough — we just lost our edge.”
Ryan Cornish ’25 agreed.
“It was just unfortunate as they hit a few shots early on,” Cornish said of the extended period. “It’s tough to come back in overtime after going down early.”
The Columbia game was much of the same. The Lions led for most of the first half, entering halftime up five.
Dartmouth would, however, eventually find its identity. Shortly into the second half, the Big Green nailed its first three-pointer of the game — and then two more in quick succession — en route to a 19-6 run that put Dartmouth up 56-48 with 12:16 on the clock.
It was then that Dartmouth struggled — and big time. In the next four and a half minutes, the Big Green did not score a single point. Eventually, Columbia crept back and tied it up. After the final media timeout, the Lions put on a quick four-point run, and Dartmouth would, at best, come within two points before ultimately falling by six.
“We got stale on the offensive end,” McLaughlin said. “It was hard for us to keep our defensive intensity…when we weren’t able to put the ball in the basket, especially in the last 11 minutes of the game,” when Dartmouth scored only nine points.
Cornish said that he is confident, however, that future scoring slumps can be avoided.
“Coach will put us in a good position to make the right plays,” Cornish said. “I think we started to get away from that a little bit — especially myself — so I need to do a better job of putting myself in positions to help the team get the best shots possible.”
The two performances were obviously disappointing, and the stats backed that disappointment up. Dartmouth’s 22 turnovers against Cornell was the team’s second-worst total of the season, and the Columbia game marked the Big Green’s second-worst performance of the season beyond the arc, as the team converted a mere three of 21 from three.
Nonetheless, multiple Big Green players stepped up in each game. Cornish scored 19 against Cornell, which matched the points he scored in the last three games combined. Dusan Neskovic ’25 added 19 of his own as well.
“It was a nice confidence boost, but overall I just want to let the scoring come to me and do whatever the coaches need me to do,” Cornish said. “I felt like I was in the position to score a lot and make good passes because of the help [Adelekun] draws.”
Against Columbia, Adelekun scored 19, but it paled somewhat compared to the 41 he posted in his last outing against the Lions.
But with two games left in his Dartmouth career, Adelekun said he is hopeful the odds can work in the team’s favor. To make the Ivy tournament, Dartmouth would likely have to win its final two games and watch Cornell and Brown University, who stand tied at fourth, lose at least one apiece.
All that the Big Green can control, though, is its performance. And Adelekun simplifies it further.
“Energy,” Adelekun said. “We want to focus on still playing our hardest and fighting.”
Dartmouth will next take the court on the road Saturday, Feb. 25 against the University of Pennsylvania.