Basketball breaks losing streak
By Henry Arndt
Published on Thursday, January 10, 2013
Coming off a skid of seven straight losses, the Dartmouth men’s basketball team squared up against the United States Military Academy at West Point in Leede Arena Tuesday night and delivered head coach Paul Cormier’s 100th win at Dartmouth.
The Big Green (3-10, 0-0 Ivy League) won only one of its seven games in December and fell to Colgate University on Saturday, but the team showed no signs of frustration and dominated Army (7-8, 0-0 Conf.) for a final score of 75-58.
“I know for me personally I just said,‘Tonight I want to go out and have fun,’” forward John Golden ’15 said. “We have a whole new season pretty much now going into Ivy [League] play, we’re 1-and-0 for the rest of the season that’s how you have to look at it.”
From the moment the Big Green won the opening tipoff, they seemed poised for success. The bench spent the first several minutes of the game on its feet cheering on every small victory, keeping the team pumped up.
“We don’t have a big margin of error so therefore our effort and how hard we work and our ‘stick-to-it-ism’ on every single possession — offensive or defensive — is vital,” Cormier said. “We don’t have to run it perfectly, but we do have to be the team that shows the most energy on both sides of the ball.”
At first, the high levels of energy did not translate into points for either the Big Green or Army, as both teams were making a mere 20 percent of field goals in the first 10 minutes of the first half. Dartmouth did a good job of forcing West Point to settle for perimeter shooting, but failed free throw attempts and bad turnovers prevented the Big Green from pulling away.
The score was tied 20-20 14 minutes into the first period when guard Tyler Melville ’14 hit a three-pointer and then grabbed the rebound off a missed lay-up by Army’s Kevin Ferguson. Melville moved the ball to Golden, who quickly found an open Alex Mitola ’16. Mitola landed the second consecutive Dartmouth three-pointer for a 6-point advantage, provoking a roar from the home crowd as they began to taste victory.
West Point began to claw its way back into the game, evening the score back up to a 26-24 Dartmouth advantage with three minutes left in the third period. Cormier subbed in Kevin Crescenzi ’16, who followed up another Mitola three-pointer with two three-pointers of his own, stretching the lead to 35-26 in favor of Dartmouth. Mitola hit two free throws in the final minute of the period to take Dartmouth into the locker room with a 37-28 lead.
“We have actually been one of the worst field goal percentage teams in the country this season,” Mitola said. “We haven’t been shooting the ball well, but tonight we were able to share the ball well enough to keep everyone in the rhythm to keep knocking down shots.”
By the end of the night five of the Big Green players had scored in the double digits.
Dartmouth men shined in the first half with 25 rebounds to West Point’s 17 rebounds. West Point managed to stay in the game through hot free throw shooting — going eight for eight in the first half — while Dartmouth struggled at the foul line and made only six of its 12 attempts.
Led by Gabas Maldunas ’15, Dartmouth continued its run of success in the second half. Maldunas scored nine of his 13 total points in the first five minutes of the second period to give Dartmouth a 49-35 advantage, possibly its most comfortable lead of the season, with 15 minutes left to play.
As the period progressed, Dartmouth continued to thrive in all aspects of the game. Field goal, three-pointer and free throw percentages all went up as Dartmouth proved that it was the better team despite having the weaker record.
“Tonight we just got the ball inside, took layups, took fouls — we just played basketball,” Golden said.
Throughout the night, freshman point guard Mitola frustrated the Army defenders with his footwork and ball handling. When it came time to simply let the game clock run down, Mitola showed great maturity.
“I looked up all of a sudden, and I’m thinking I’ve got to put in a delay offense,” Cormier said. “I haven’t had to put a delay since the first game of the year. Didn’t think I’d be working on that tonight.”
Dartmouth managed the shot clock well, allowing the Big Green to not score a single point for the final five minutes and 45 seconds of the game but still secure the victory by a comfortable margin.
On Tuesday night, the Big Green seemed to finally fit all of the pieces together and figure out how to get points on the board after a long and disappointing December. Fortunately, the big win comes just in time to give the men the confidence they need to begin the all-important Ivy League portion of their season.
“We’ve got to enjoy the night, enjoy the win and then start worrying about Harvard [University] tomorrow,” Cormier said. “We don’t have to play a perfect game to beat Harvard (8-5, 0-0 Ivy League), but we have to play our A-game and play good enough defense to prevent them from bringing theirs.”