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Better Late Than ... Mitola Comes Through for Big Green

Saturday, December 20, 2014
Hanover — It hadn’t been Alex Mitola’s night. And then, suddenly, the Dartmouth College junior owned the evening, sinking a quartet of 3-point shots during overtime to send the Big Green past Northern Illinois, 58-55, on Friday night at Leede Arena.

Mitola’s final trey was still sailing through the air when the horn went off, giving Dartmouth its second buzzer-beater ending of the season and improving its record to 5-5. The Huskies, who trailed by 14 at halftime before storming back late in the second half, fell to 4-4.

“The kids showed tremendous resilience,” Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier said. “They were charged up and our defense kept us in and then we broke through.”

Mitola hit a 3-point shot to tie the game, 55-55, with 45 seconds remaining in overtime. Northern Illinois’ Michael Orris missed a layup attempt with 20 seconds on the clock, and that final span dissolved into chaos, a bunch of frantic guys in white jerseys passing the ball around the perimeter in a seeming panic.

As time wound under 10 seconds, center Gabas Maldunas set a high screen for Mitola to the right of the lane, but a Huskies defender slid behind it and denied the diminutive point guard anything resembling an open shot. Mitola spun away to the left side, then back to the right, where he once again tossed his Lithuanian buddy the ball.

“Things got disorganized, so we didn’t get anything off the screen,” said Mitola, who accounted for all his team’s points in overtime. “Then Gabas popped out and I got him the ball, thinking we could run a pick-and-roll.

“He said he was thinking the same thing, but then I heard all the (fans) yelling we only had two seconds, so I looked up and shot it as quick as I could. I’m short, so I’ve been shooting like that all my life. Instinct just took over.”

Boom. A bucket and victory secured.

Mitola, who had only six points and made just 2-of-10 field-goal attempts during regulation, including 1-of-5 from 3-point range, finished 6-of-15 overall and 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. He had 18 points and one turnover in 33 minutes and is becoming the floor general and consistent scoring threat Cormier envisioned when he recruited him out of New Jersey.

The coach said that while Mitola is a better player, he’s also getting more help. Junior guard Kevin Crescenzi had eight points Friday and freshman forward Miles Wright, while only contributing five against the Huskies, had 14 in a victory at Mercer earlier in the week.

Maldunas had 11 points and seven rebounds, but Cormier wasn’t as complimentary of the big man, saying he drove a packed lane too often and too early in possessions.

“I thought he was very impatient tonight and he’s pressing,” Cormier said of his senior center. “If he can catch (the ball high) and then reverse it a couple of times, the defense spreads out and the lane opens up. Then, when you get the ball back in the post, you’re going to see an opening. But he would just get the ball and go into traffic.”

Junior forward Connor Boehm had seven points and nine rebounds before fouling out and junior guard Malik Gill had four points, five assists and five steals. Dartmouth held a 36-35 rebounding edge against the taller Huskies and forced them into 19 turnovers while committing only 10 itself.

The ugliest statistic of the night? The hosts’ 11-of-21 performance at the free-throw line that included missing all six foul shots during the second half. That certainly won’t fly during Dartmouth’s next home game, when Ivy League power Harvard arrives to kick off the Ancient Eight portion of the schedule.

“We’re going to give them a run for their money at home and try to take some momentum from this (nonconference) season,” Mitola said. “If we get in tight games during the Ivy League (games), we’re going to be more than comfortable, because we’ve won two games and lost two games at the buzzer.”

Dartmouth beat Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne in the final seconds, but lost in that fashion to New Hampshire and Longwood.



Notes: Cormier said sophomore forward Eli Harrison and junior forwards Matt Rennie and Brandon McDonnell have been suspended from the college for a term because of academic misconduct in a fall semester class titled “Sports, Ethics and Religion.” The coach said there will be an appeals process but that “for now, we have to move on without them on the team.”… Dartmouth has one contest before Christmas, playing at Penn State (10-1) in a game that will be aired on Big Ten Network Plus on Monday at 4 p.m.

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




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