Hawks Soar, Leave Big Green Grounded
Dartmouth College center Gabas Maldunas leaps for a shot against the defense of Hartford's Jamie Scheck (50) and Mark Nwakamma on Tuesday during the teams' nonconference game. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth College men's basketball coach Paul Cormier, second from left, watches Tuesday's action against visiting Hartford. The Big Green lost the nonconference game, 68-56, its second consecutive setback heading into Saturday's Ivy League opener at Harvard. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — The Dartmouth College men’s basketball team, aided by some deft scheduling, began the current season 7-4, its best start in 16 years. That momentum, however, has come to a crashing halt with a pair of lackluster losses to unimposing foes during a four-day span.
Tuesday night’s 68-56 setback against visiting Hartford came on the heels of a loss to Vermont. Neither America East opponent is particularly daunting, but the Hawks entered at 5-10 with victories over the likes of Sacred Heart, Fairleigh Dickinson and St. Peter’s. Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier looked somber during the closing minutes and was unavailable to the media after a home game for the first time in the four years since starting his second stint at the program’s helm.
“We’re heading into the Ivy League season on a pretty crappy note,” said sophomore point guard Alex Mitola, whose team opens that slate at Harvard (13-1) on Saturday afternoon. “We need to do some soul searching and get it back together.
“We’ve really got to remember this feeling. Everyone’s miserable right now. The game was close, but it felt like a blowout because they completely controlled the game.”
Dartmouth trailed 28-22 at halftime before rallying for a 36-34 lead four minutes into the second stanza. Hartford then went on a 10-0 run, led by reserve guard Taylor Dyson, who scored 20 points and made six of his seven field-goal attempts, including all five of his three-point tries.
“We got our heads handed to us Saturday,” said Hartford coach John Gallagher, referring to his team’s 25-point loss at Albany. “So we didn’t really care who we were playing tonight. We were just going to come out and be blood-and-guts.”
That hellbent approach, plus Dyson’s hot night, led to Hartford hitting on 53 percent of its field goal attempts while holding Dartmouth to 39 percent. The Big Green made 3 of 14 shots from beyond the 3-point arc, all coming from Mitola, who finished with 13 points and no turnovers.
Sophomore forward Connor Boehm had 11 points and five rebounds, continuing what’s been a strong season for the team’s leading scorer.
Junior center Gabas Maldunas had 12 points and seven rebounds before fouling out with a minute remaining.
Asked if the Big Green is scratching its collective head when it comes to how best inspire the Lithuanian, Mitola answered in the affirmative.
“Gabas has been a little inconsistent this year and coach is trying to push the right buttons with him,” he said.
“I’m going to talk to him, because he really needs to dig within himself. There’s an energy level for us when he’s playing great and it’s not there when he’s struggling. That’s our job as teammates, to get him to be a huge asset for us.”
Dartmouth (7-6) began the night ranked 25th nationally in field-goal percentage, at 48 percent, but has now turned in its two worst shooting performances during its last two games. There’s just a sense that something isn’t right and that the chance to improve on last winter’s 5-9 league mark could be squandered.
“There’s nothing that really sticks out,” Mitola said.
“If there was one thing, we’d fix it and move on, but there’s a lot of stuff. We were playing really well before break but we haven’t put it back together since we got back.”
Notes: Cormier failed in his second attempt to reach 200 college victories. His team’s next three games are two clashes with Harvard and at one at Big East opponent St. John’s. …Hartford leads the teams’ series, 9-6. … More than half of the Hawks’ roster features players from Texas (5) and Australia (3). Dyson is one of the Aussies, hailing from the town of Sassafras. … Hartford forward Nate Sikma is the son of former NBA great Jack Sikma. He had no points in 18 minutes. … Boehm had only eight assists entering Tuesday but piled up five against Hartford… Maldunas had blocked 23 shots during his team’s previous five games but had none Tuesday. … Gallagher, a Philadelphia native, asserts that his hometown has produced more college basketball head coaches than any other U.S. location.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.