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A Rough-and-Tumble Loss for Dartmouth Hoop

  • Dartmouth College guard Alex Mitola drives the lane against Vermont on Saturday during his team's 62-53, nonconference loss at Leede Arena.<br/>Valley News - Tris Wykes

    Dartmouth College guard Alex Mitola drives the lane against Vermont on Saturday during his team's 62-53, nonconference loss at Leede Arena.
    Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth College center Gabas Maldunas looks up at a referee after landing on the Leede Arena court Saturday. Big Green coach Paul Cormier said his team was "manhandled" by the Catamounts during their 62-53, nonconference loss. Valley News - Tris Wykes

    Dartmouth College center Gabas Maldunas looks up at a referee after landing on the Leede Arena court Saturday. Big Green coach Paul Cormier said his team was "manhandled" by the Catamounts during their 62-53, nonconference loss. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dartmouth College guard Alex Mitola drives the lane against Vermont on Saturday during his team's 62-53, nonconference loss at Leede Arena.<br/>Valley News - Tris Wykes
  • Dartmouth College center Gabas Maldunas looks up at a referee after landing on the Leede Arena court Saturday. Big Green coach Paul Cormier said his team was "manhandled" by the Catamounts during their 62-53, nonconference loss. Valley News - Tris Wykes

Hanover — Basketball is technically not included among “contact sports” such as football, hockey and lacrosse. That logic wouldn’t have flown far with the Dartmouth College men’s basketball team on Saturday night, however. Not after Vermont pushed, shouldered and hip-checked its way to a 62-53 nonconference victory at Leede Arena.

“They were much more physical than us,” said Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier, whose team dropped to 7-5 before a crowd announced at 1,407 and swelled by UVM backers. “You can look deeper than that if you want, but that’s really the story.”

The Catamounts (6-8), who lost at Duke by a point earlier this season, grabbed 39 rebounds to Dartmouth’s 27 and used a veteran lineup to pound the hosts into submission. The Big Green pulled within 55-50 with a minute, 28 seconds remaining, but there was never really a feeling that the comeback would be complete.

“It all starts and ends with defensive rebounding,” said UVM coach John Becker, whose team had 30 defensive boards while Dartmouth managed just eight on the offensive glass. “We’ve got five really good bigs and the plan was to rotate them and wear Dartmouth down.”

Mission accomplished. Gabas Maldunas, Dartmouth’s enigmatic center, had two points and one rebound during the first half, but 10 points and five rebounds during the second stanza.

The junior looked to be in pain at times and Becker, who said No. 12 was a focus of his team’s scouting report, speculated the Lithuanian was cramping. Maldunas picked up his fourth foul with nine minutes remaining.

“He’s good with his back to the basket, but we did a good job of controlling him,” Becker said.

Cormier said his standout is healthy.

“He didn’t play very well,” the coach said of Maldunas. “But there’s nothing wrong with him.”

Maybe not physically, but Maldunas is probably the key to whether or not his team can break the .500 barrier in Ivy League play, which starts next weekend at powerhouse Harvard. Dartmouth also desperately needs better shooting from starting guard John Golden, who attempted only six field goals. The junior didn’t sink one until dunking with two minutes remaining, although he finished with nine points, four of them from the free-throw line.

Sophomore forward Connor Boehm started hot, with 10 points and five rebounds before intermission, then had four points and four rebounds the rest of the way. Senior guard Tyler Melville started and didn’t score in 22 minutes and starting point guard Alex Mitola had four points and four assists in 32 minutes.

“We just got manhandled from start to end,” Cormier said. “That team comes at you and pick-and-rolls you to death, even though you know it’s coming. Offensively, we played way too much of a finesse game. When we’d get the ball inside, we’d miss chippies and we weren’t physical enough.”

Said Boehm: “They were going up strong and drawing fouls and we couldn’t do the same.”

Dartmouth, which trailed by eight points at halftime, had a four-game winning streak snapped by a foe picked to win the America East Conference. Vermont has won 14 of the teams’ last 15 meetings, the lone Big Green victory in that span coming in Hanover during the 2008-09 campaign.

“Vermont’s a great program and they expect to win,” Boehm said. “We have to turn the corner by coming out with intensity and physicality.

“We need to use this as a learning experience, but in order for that to happen, we have to come out in Ivy play and turn some heads.”

Notes: Dartmouth entered the weekend with a field-goal percentage of 50.2 percent, 10th in the country. The Big Green shot 35.1 percent Saturday, its first time with less than 41 percent this season. … Dartmouth’s first-ever men’s basketball game was against UVM in 1900 and leads the series, 58-40. The teams have met for 52 consecutive years, the longest such stretch for the Big Green and any nonconference foe. … Becker said his team held 14 opponents to fewer than 60 points last season but have only done it three times this winter. Dartmouth, Massachusetts-Lowell and Division III Lyndon State are those teams. … Dartmouth’s winning streak was its longest in nine years. … The Big Green hosts Hartford on Tuesday night. … Cormier was denied his 200th career victory as a collegiate head coach, combing two stints at Dartmouth and one at Fairfield (Conn.). It was his first attempt to reach the milestone.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.