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At Long Last, a Win for Dartmouth Basketball

Hanover — It was cathartic, it was inspired and it was a long time coming. It was the Dartmouth men’s basketball team’s first victory in eight games and the Big Green enjoyed every minute of the 75-58 triumph over Army last night at Leede Arena.

The Black Knights (7-8) may attend a military academy, but they weren’t able to put up much of a fight. The angry yelling of coach Zach Spiker, a former Cornell assistant, could be heard throughout the stands after the visitors took a time out with eight minutes remaining and Dartmouth up by 20 points. It’s no fun being blown out by a foe that entered the night at 2-10.

“We had two wins and not a lot going great, but our work ethic was still there,” said Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier, who posted his 100th victory at Dartmouth, earned during two stints at the helm. “I hope this is the start of us realizing how hard you have to play and how you have to finish plays, finish possessions and stay together as a team the entire game.”

John Golden, a sophomore guard who shared Dartmouth’s points lead with classmate and center Gabas Maldunas at 13, said the Big Green’s mood the past few days was one of looking forward and shelving regret. A quote from author Carl Bard was penned on a dry erase board in the team’s locker room:

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”

Said Golden: “We had been thinking so much about what we were doing wrong, why we weren’t making shots, why we weren’t winning games. Coach told us to just go play, to just go win.”

Cormier, who had been working his team extremely hard in recent weeks, said he knows such an approach has its limits. Especially on a 15-player squad with only one senior and one junior.

“I don’t want to make it a belabored exercise here,” the coach said. “We’re aware people are wondering if this program is any good and when is it going to start showing success. But we’re confident it’s going to happen and we can’t let all those things we can’t control affect the kind of fun and togetherness we need to have to be successful.”

Now comes a reality check, however. Dartmouth’s next game is Saturday against defending Ivy League champion Harvard (8-5), which has won the teams’ last six meetings and nine of their last 11. The Crimson has beaten Boston College, California and Rice this season.

“They’ve had some good wins, but I don’t think there’s any Ivy League team that’s off the radar this season,” Golden said. “To knock off Harvard would make a huge statement, and I definitely think we can do it if we play fun and hard like we did tonight. We didn’t even let (Army) come close; we just battled.”

Dartmouth overcame a 1-of-12 start in its field-goal shooting to lead 37-28 at halftime. It was just the second time this season that the Big Green has had a lead at intermission. The Big Green made 6-of-12 free throws during the first half, but canned 15-of-19 in the second. Freshmen Connor Boehm, a forward, and Alex Mitola, a point guard, each contributed 11 points. Junior guard Tyler Melville had 10 and sophomore forward Jvonte Brooks had nine.

“We gave ourselves tremendous opportunities by totally dominating the glass,” said Cormier, whose team held a 44-27 advantage there. “Instead of trying to match up to (Army’s) quickness and perimeter players, they had to match up to us inside. We only allowed them one shot and then we dominated them on the offensive glass.”

Dartmouth led by as many as 25 points with five minutes remaining and a crowd generously announced at 521 got to enjoy a laugher for once.

“This is perfect, to get a win going into the Ivy League and really build up our confidence,” Golden said. “It’s been frustrating because we’ve been working hard, but tonight, I just said I want to have fun playing basketball. We all did.”

Notes: The result was Dartmouth’s largest margin of victory since a 17-point defeat of visiting Colgate on Nov. 27, 2010. It was the Big Green’s first time scoring at least 70 points since a home rout of Longwood last January… Army leads the teams’ series, 19-18 and has won 17 of the teams’ last 24 matchups… Maldunas fouled out with a minute left… The Black Knights all stood ramrod straight, arms at their sides and hands closed in fists during the playing of the national anthem. Each player wears identical socks and sneakers… Army entered the night out-rebounding opponents by four boards per game... Melville scored in double digits for the 18th time in his three-year career. Dartmouth has won just two of those games.

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

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