Halftime Lead Gets Away From Dartmouth in Loss

Dartmouth forward Connor Boehm, left, grimaces in pain after suffering a second-half injury during the Big Green’s loss to Penn last night. Boehm, attended by trainer Caleb Crowell, later returned to the game. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Dartmouth forward Connor Boehm, left, grimaces in pain after suffering a second-half injury during the Big Green’s loss to Penn last night. Boehm, attended by trainer Caleb Crowell, later returned to the game. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

Hanover — Has the rebuilding of the Dartmouth College men’s basketball team officially stalled? It certainly feels that way after the Big Green blew a 12-point halftime lead against visiting Pennsylvania last night and fell, 67-57, its third consecutive Ivy League loss.

At best, the engine on coach Paul Cormier’s rig is sputtering along and threatening to quit. At worst, it’s time to call a tow truck.

Regardless of where one thinks the program now stands, last night’s result stung the Big Green badly. The Quakers arrived with only a 5-18 overall record, a 2-4 mark in Ivy play and in the wake of a 19-point loss at Harvard the previous night.

“This is a game that, if our defense was really good, we should have won,’’ said Cormier, whose team fell to 6-16 and 2-6. “None of our guards did a good enough job of containing them off the dribble. They shot such a high percentage in the second half and it’s not that they were knocking down a bunch of huge shots. They were getting easy buckets in the paint.

“We can’t allow what happened in the second half to happen and that’s what we’ll be addressing all next week.’’

Dartmouth led by 14 points with six minutes remaining in the second half and looked like it might run the Quakers out of the building. The visitors, however, pulled within four points fewer than five minutes into the second stanza, and tied the contest at 46-46 with six minutes to play. Three minutes later, Penn was up by seven and many in an announced Leede Arena gathering of 889 drifted into the cold night.

The Quakers outscored Dartmouth, 49-27, in the second half, while connecting on 16 of 21 field goal attempts for a 76 percent success rate. Penn made 56 percent of its shots from the floor after intermission and sank nine of its last 10 field goal tries and 12 of its final 14 free throw attempts.

“They took their intensity up a step and we took ours down a step,’’ said Dartmouth point guard Alex Mitola. “I don’t know why that is, but it can’t happen. Offensively, we got a little stagnant and they went with a smaller lineup that was pressuring us and caused some turnovers and took us out of our rhythm.”

The Big Green received 19 points and 10 rebounds from enigmatic center Gabas Maldunas, but while the sophomore made four out six field goal attempts in the first half, he was only 3-of-10 after intermission. Mitola put up 14 points and forward Connor Boehm had 11 points and seven rebounds despite hurting an ankle in the second half.

On the down side, freshman guard Malik Gill was 0-of-7 from the floor, and junior backcourt mate Tyler Melville was 1-of-4. The Big Green made four out of 13 shots from 3-point range, but Penn sank only two of eight from behind the arc.

Compounding the loss was the continued unsettled situation surrounding sophomore Jvonte Brooks. Cormier instructed Dartmouth’s Athletic Communications office not to list the forward as a co-captain in the weekend’s game program, but wouldn’t confirm that the California native has officially lost the title he’s carried all season with senior Matt LaBove.

“We weren’t happy with the leadership we were getting (from Brooks), and we sent a message to him,’’ the coach said. “I’m not going to say he’s not a captain, but we couldn’t tolerate some of the actions we had witnessed. There were things that just aren’t acceptable, but I’m not going to talk about it any further than that.”

Cormier said previously he displeased with Brooks’ attitude during practices following a loss at Harvard last month. A home loss to Brown followed, and Brooks was in uniform but didn’t play the next night against Yale.

Mitola confirmed that his teammate had an unhappy outburst after that contest, but said things were soon smoothed over. Brooks dislocated his thumb Friday in a home loss to Princeton, didn’t play last night and could be out for the season if tests show he has a torn ligament.

“Jvonte apologized to the team and we welcomed him back and everything kind of went back to normal,’’ Mitola said. “He’s really changed his attitude and become a good part of the team.”

Whether or not that team is dead in the water remains to be seen.

Dartmouth now plays consecutive road games against Yale, Brown, Penn and Princeton before closing its season at home against Cornell and Columbia. “We’re very disappointed in the way our season has been,’’ Mitola said. “We can’t let a game like that slip away. We don’t want to hear that we’re young. We’ve got six games left and we have to get back on track and win all six.”

Notes: Dartmouth athletic director Harry Sheehy said he’s back at work full time, now that his wife, Connie, has been transferred from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to Windsor’s Mount Ascutney Hospital and Health Center. Connie Sheehy spent much of January in DHMC’s intensive care unit with severe respiratory ailments but is undergoing rehabilitation at Mount Ascutney. … Penn has beaten Dartmouth seven consecutive times. … The Quakers played without two injured starters and only 10 players overall. … Cormier is 4-15 against Penn during his two stints as Dartmouth’s coach. … Dartmouth’s bench contributed only two points, on a pair of Gill free throws. … Mitola conducted a postgame interview while wearing an orange “Mitola Deli & Caterers” T-shirt. The freshman said his uncle owns the Livingston, N.J., business and that he once worked there, stocking shelves.

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