Men’s basketball takes down top-ranked Princeton, keeps Ivy Tournament hopes alive

The Big Green’s 15-point second-half lead, grabbed after a 30-8 scoring run, quickly evaporated to two, but Dartmouth held strong for the win.

by Will Dehmel | 2/13/23 1:10am

Source: Justin Lafleur

When you’re up by two on the conference leader, at home, with less than two minutes remaining, silence isn’t something you expect. On Friday night, though, visitors of Leede Arena heard just that.

Up 73-71 against Princeton University, Dame Adelukun’s ’23 free throw bounced off the back of the rim, then the front of the rim, then, for good measure, off the side of the rim. Oh, and then it went in.

“I think it hit the rim nine times,” head coach David McLaughlin joked after the game, articulating what every viewer was thinking.

Dartmouth went on to bury its next five free throws — bringing its total on the day to an impressive 18 of 19 — to go up eight points, eliminating the fear that the Tiger curse would strike again, as it did earlier in the season. In the end, Dartmouth pulled out an 83-76 victory to advance to 5-5 in Ivy League play. The Tigers, formerly alone at number one, now share that spot with Yale University at 7-3 after Saturday’s loss.

Just three weeks ago, Dartmouth had been up four on Princeton with even less time remaining, but a series of three turnovers within 19 seconds cut the Big Green lead and led to a devastating overtime loss. This time, the team held on.

“It’s experience,” McLaughlin said. “You have to take care of the basketball at the end, and we did a good job.”

But that doesn’t mean the Big Green was perfect. In fact, seven of Princeton’s 10 steals came in the last nine and a half minutes of the contest, four of them on Ryan Cornish ’25. Princeton adopted a 1-3-1 zone defense late in the game, applying pressure to the young guard.

“They did a really good job in that defense,” Cornish said. “They made it aggressive where sometimes if you’re dribbling at them, they'll both trap you or they would kind of play with you, make you pick it up and then they would space out.”

Still, the Big Green prevailed, and it marked a welcome return to winning after a tough weekend where the team lost to both Brown University and Yale at home.

“So on Monday we said, ‘Okay, this is who we are, this is how we played — that's not a version of what we want to be,’” McLaughlin said. “This is what we need to do to have a great week.”

Dartmouth started off hot, hitting two three-pointers en route to a 10-0 scoring run.

“We knew we had to make a run to stay in the game,” Adelekun said. “We knew Princeton is the type of team that knows how to finish off teams. We knew we couldn’t wait for it to happen — we knew we had to take it ourselves.”

But after that, the Big Green briefly faltered, watching Princeton spark a 13-2 run to go up by one. It didn’t help that Ryan Langborg, Princeton’s senior guard, was heating up from beyond the arc, making his first three treys.

A Princeton shooting drought, however, let Dartmouth regain a five-point lead, but the Tigers played strong on offense in the final 6:13, scoring 19 points to go ahead 40-35 at intermission. 

Although Princeton would convert the first field goal of the second half, Dartmouth then went on a 12-0 run to go up 47-42.

In the next seven minutes, the Tigers would score just eight more points; meanwhile, the Big Green scored 30, granting Dartmouth a 65-50 lead.

It was then that Princeton fully adopted its 1-3-1 defense, and sloppy turnovers and fouls threatened the Big Green lead, eventually allowing the Tigers to cut it to two. At its worst, the Big Green had four turnovers in 2 minutes and 37 seconds.

Although McLaughlin acknowledged the team needs to continue working on avoiding costly turnovers, he credited the Princeton defense.

“It’s loose pressure, and it allows the ball to see length and then on certain dribbles — or certain passing angles or when you pick up the ball — that's when the pressure really comes,” McLaughlin said. “Princeton’s a very good team, they’re very well coached, and they showed us a different look defensively.”

The key to the Big Green victory was strong play by Adelekun, whose 30 minutes easily surpassed the 17 minutes he played in the Princeton game three weeks ago. A big part of that was avoiding foul trouble, as his fouling out right before overtime was costly in the last meeting of the teams.

“I was like ‘If I can get to the first half with zero fouls, I’m good for the rest of the game,’” Adelekun said. “I was able to just focus on doing me, going full speed, not trying to play tentative and just play as hard as I could.”

Adelekun ended up with 25 points, just above the 21 scored by Dusan Neskovic ’24, who has played phenomenally well in the last two matchups against the Tigers, putting up an efficient 24 points in the teams’ previous meeting. The third leading scorer was Romeo Myrhtil ’25, who played for 29 minutes and put up 12 points despite entering the game averaging just 16 minutes.

“He's been producing practice, and the staff said, ‘I think we need to give him a shot,’” McLaughlin said. “He played great on both ends — he didn't just make some threes and free throws, but he played great on both ends of the ball.”

The strong defense of Myrthil and the rest of the Big Green team held Princeton to its second-poorest shooting performance of the season, which will be important when Dartmouth takes on Cornell University's offense on Friday, which leads the league in scoring at 84 points per game.

With four games remaining, Dartmouth stands tied with Cornell for fifth in the Ivy League, just outside of the Ivy League tournament picture. A strong finish to the season could vault men’s basketball into the Ivy tournament — and a chance at a March Madness bid.