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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

The Big Green celebrates senior night on Saturday despite losses to Princeton and Penn over the weekend

Dartmouth fell 82-69 to the University of Pennsylvania on Friday, and then 68-56 to Princeton University.


Men's basketball is now eliminated from Ivy League conference tournament contention.

On Friday night in Leede Arena, the story was much the same as throughout the Dartmouth men’s basketball season. With 8:05 remaining in the first half, University of Pennsylvania’s lead was already 24-11. A revolving door starting lineup and poor shooting to open contests have led to a season-long tradition of starting games slowly for the Big Green. Coach David McLaughlin spoke on the struggles of finishing possessions throughout. 

“I saw fire for the first 20, 25 seconds of a possession,” McLaughlin said. “We have to be able to defend for the full clock.”

Pennsylvania shot 45.2% from beyond the arc and 52.5% from the field. Dusan Neskovic ’24 felt that too many easy shots were given up as a result of poor switching and defensive communication. 

“Too many easy baskets, too many straight-line drives for them against two really good defensive guards for us,” Neskovic said. 

Despite the final score of 82-69, some late Big Green three-pointers came despite the Quakers holding at least a 20-point lead for much of the second half. 

The Pennsylvania zone was able to hold the Big Green almost entirely in check from beyond the arc in the first half, limiting Dartmouth to a 13.3 shooting percentage from three. The Big Green finished with a 35.3 shooting percentage from three for the game. 

“We just weren’t moving the ball as quickly as we needed to against the zone,” McLaughlin said. “You have to understand what is a good look and what is a really, really great look.”

One bright spot for the Big Green has been the play of Niko Abusara ’27, who has seen significant minutes for the first time at the collegiate level over the past three weeks. Abusara spoke on the adjustments he’s had to make in his transition from high school to Ivy League play in his first season.

“I’m just taking advantage of the opportunity,” Abusara said. “I’m just trying to be the best version of myself, day by day. The physicality has certainly been an adjustment for sure.”

“[Abusara] has a chance to be an incredible defender in [the Ivy League],” McLaughlin added. 

On Saturday night, the Big Green hosted Princeton University on what would serve as Senior Night for the Class of 2024. Neskovic, Robert McRae III ’24, Izaiah Robinson ’24 and Jaren Johnson ’24 were honored. 

The Big Green jumped out to a 15-13 lead after six minutes of play, nailing four of their first five attempts from beyond the arc.

At the break, the Big Green led the Tigers 34-30. However, sparked by sophomore guard Xaivian Lee, Princeton was able to go on a 21-3 run in the second half, ultimately defeating the Big Green 68-56. 

The Class of 2024 reflected on their disappointment with their 2023-24 season, yet the legacy from Big Green basketball that they will take away from the rest of their life. 

“The team is very tight-knit. Having games like this is obviously a beautiful thing,” McRae said. “The first time I was interviewed here, I was asked what I could bring to the team, and I said I was a winner. Ask me for more details, and I’ll tell you that I’m a winner.”

Johnson and Robinson both commented on  how their experience of playing basketball for the Big Green will impact their memories of Dartmouth. 

“We wanted to go out playing the game our way,” Johnson said. “It’s something we talk about all the time, we only get to live this life once.”

“Basketball is everything to me,” Robinson said. “Just continuing that lineage. It means everything, that’s all I can say.”

McLaughlin also shared his thoughts about the players in the Class of 2024.

“With our four seniors out there, they played to win,” Coach McLaughlin said. “They played with no fear of failure.”

After yet another home loss, questions have started to arise about the stability of this team’s core and coaching staff.

Jackson Munro ’26 spoke on the surprise of having a 1-10 record with a seemingly talented lineup.

“I think it is surprising — I think we have a lot of young talent, and with that, comes some bumps in the road,” Munro said. “At the end of the day, we just have to play better, and it’s really on the players to do that. This year, we haven’t done that.”

When asked about whether or not McLaughlin was concerned about returning for a ninth season, McLaughlin spoke on the expectations of the program. 

“People at the Division I level want to win,” McLaughlin said. “it’s always going to be on your mind at some point.” 

McLaughlin holds a record of 61-129 through just under eight seasons with the Big Green. 

Here’s a look into the Ivy League standings after this weekend’s action:

Next weekend, Dartmouth will travel to Yale University (Friday, 7 p.m.) and Brown University (Saturday, 6 p.m.). Their only victory this season came against the Bears when the Big Green pulled ahead late to win 75-71 in Leede Arena on Jan. 27.