Men's Basketball: Dartmouth Left Searching for Answers
Dartmouth’s Alex Mitola looks to score against IPFW’s Isaiah McCray yesterday in Hanover. IPFW won, 70-66. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
IPFW’s Mario Hines blocks a second-half shot by Dartmouth’s Gabas Maldunas yesterday. IPFW won, 70-66. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth's John Golden reacts after fouling IPFW on a missed basket. IPFW held the lead against Dartmouth to win 70-66, dropping the Big Green to 1-2 overall. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth's Kevin Crescenzi (4) takes a shot over IPFW's Isaiah McCray (11). (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — Slow starts are beginning to become a trend for the Dartmouth College men’s basketball team. The Big Green, which fell 70-66 to Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne yesterday, was undone by poor outside shooting, a failure to try and pound the ball inside and, yet again, a lackluster effort out of the gate.
“I really don’t have any answers for it,’’ said frustrated coach Paul Cormier, whose extremely young team looked outstanding in beating Maine in its opener, but has floundered in two losses since. “If a team is up on us because they’re just better than us, that’s one thing. But the things we can control, we have to control.’’
Cormier pointed to turnovers and his troops’ growing frustration, which he said manifested itself with some players sulking when they came out of the game and others not being ready to go back in.
“I think we showed some progress in the second half, but it was a winnable game and we came up empty,’’ said the coach, whose teams have won a combined 10 games since he returned to Dartmouth in 2010. “We haven’t turned the corner yet in terms of winning. We may have turned some corners in how hard we work and talent level, but we now want to start get some of these winnable games on our side of the ledger.’’
The Big Green trailed 11-2 early and by 13 points at halftime. Dartmouth hadn’t played in 11 days because of finals and at one point during the first half, played with five freshmen on the floor. However, rookie point guard Alex Mitola, who had a game-high 18 points, wasn’t willing to cut his squad slack on those accounts.
“We don’t want to use our youth as an excuse,’’ said Mitola, whose team shot only one free throw in the first half. “We think we’re good enough to win now and we can’t let games get away from us at the start.’’
Outside of Mitola, Dartmouth made just 1-of-13 shots from beyond the 3-point arc. His freshman backcourt mate, Malik Gill, was 0-of-4 on treys and hit as many field-goal attempts (3) as he committed turnovers. A small, quick and athletic prospect, Gill’s potential has been tempered with repeated, off-balance forays into the paint, where he tends to eventually throw up one-handed prayers while sailing through the air.
Cormier has taken to putting Gill through practice drills where the little man charges in from the perimeter, but must then fire a pass to a teammate seated in a nearby chair when he reaches the blocks.
“Things are closing on him, and he’s having to try these miraculous things because more than one person is guarding him,’’ the coach said. “Therefore, someone’s open and that person has got to be getting the ball. He can’t make that pass if he’s going 100 miles per hour, so he’s got to learn to slow down to 80.’’
Dartmouth came sputtering out of the gate, missing its first six field-goal attempts. Sophomore captain Jvonte Brooks, a forward, had no points before intermission, and classmate and center Gabas Maldunas was used for only 10 minutes and had five points. Brooks, still battling an ankle injury, finished with three points and eight rebounds. Maldunas, who torched Maine for 25 points, wound up with 10 points and eight boards.
Cormier frowned when asked about his Lithuanian pivot.
“I need to talk to him,’’ said the coach, who has expressed the opinion that Maldunas can be an elite Ivy League player. “We can’t accept him being inconsistent. He’s got to give it to us every night. We can’t have one of our major pluses stopped that easily, and if he is stopped, he’s got to find another way to contribute. He’s trying but he’s still not there yet.’’
Said Mitola: “Gabas had a big first game and teams are coming after him, but he’s got to get used to finding his offense while he’s taking the other team’s best shot.’’
Dartmouth hit 13 of its 28 shots from the floor in the second half and was down only 57-56 with 7:34 to play. The Mastodons (4-3) scored the next seven points, however, and although the hosts pulled within 68-66 with a minute remaining, there was never a real sense that IPFW would give up the lead.
“All three games we’ve come out slow and we’re putting ourselves in a place where we have to climb out of,’’ said Mitola, who had 13 of his 18 points after intermission. “It’s something we need to change, because we can’t play one half with a different mindset than the other.’’
Dartmouth, which next plays Tuesday at Bucknell in the first of eight consecutive road games, received 15 points and six rebounds from John Golden and eight points from Tommy Carpenter. Senior center Matt LaBove, one of the team’s co-captains, played only three minutes.
Notes: IPFW made 46 percent of its field-goal attempts. … The Mastodons arrived in Hanover with only one victory against an NCAA Division I team, Texas-Pan American. … Golden entered yesterday having made 44.6 percent of his 3-point attempts in the past 21 games. He made 1-of-3 against IPFW. … The Mastodons started five players from outside Indiana, including four Floridians. … IPFW beat Dartmouth in Indiana last season, the only other meeting between the programs. … The Mastodons won their previous game, against NAIA member Judson University, 92-22. The contest was an exhibition for the Eagles, but not for IPFW.
Tris Wykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3227.