Dartmouth basketball mired at bottom of standings

Dartmouth College guard Romeo Myrthil (20) drives against Penn's Reese McMullen (24) during the Ivy League teams' Feb. 23, 2024, meeting at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H. Penn won, 82-69. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College guard Romeo Myrthil (20) drives against Penn's Reese McMullen (24) during the Ivy League teams' Feb. 23, 2024, meeting at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H. Penn won, 82-69. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes Valley News — Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College's Niko Abusara, left, listens to assistant coach Jabari Trotter. Big Green head coach David McLaughlin is at right during his team's 82-69 loss to Ivy League rival Penn. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College's Niko Abusara, left, listens to assistant coach Jabari Trotter. Big Green head coach David McLaughlin is at right during his team's 82-69 loss to Ivy League rival Penn. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes —Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College's Jayden Williams looks for a rebound behind Penn's Tyler Perkins during the Ivy League teams' Feb. 23, 2024, game at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H. Penn won, 82-69. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College's Jayden Williams looks for a rebound behind Penn's Tyler Perkins during the Ivy League teams' Feb. 23, 2024, game at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H. Penn won, 82-69. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes Valley News photographs — Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College men's basketball coach David McLaughlin shouts during his Ivy League team's 82-69 loss to Penn on Feb. 23, 2024, at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College men's basketball coach David McLaughlin shouts during his Ivy League team's 82-69 loss to Penn on Feb. 23, 2024, at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College's Niko Abusara, right, looks towards the basket while guarded by Penn's Sam Brown during the Ivy League teams' Feb. 23, 2024, game at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H. Penn won, 82-69. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes

Dartmouth College's Niko Abusara, right, looks towards the basket while guarded by Penn's Sam Brown during the Ivy League teams' Feb. 23, 2024, game at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H. Penn won, 82-69. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes valley news photographs — Tris Wykes —Tris Wykes

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 02-25-2024 3:11 PM

Modified: 02-28-2024 2:02 PM


HANOVER — One minute, 27 seconds.

That’s the extent to which the Dartmouth College men’s basketball team held a lead on Friday night during an 82-69 loss Penn at Leede Arena. Were the Quakers an Ivy League force, the statistic might be somewhat understandable.

Penn, however, began the night tied with the Big Green for last place in the eight-team standings. By contest’s end, Dartmouth found itself alone in the basement, dropping to 1-10 in league play with Saturday’s 68-56 home loss to second-place Princeton (9-2 league, 21-3 overall).

“Overall, our defensive effort wasn’t there, and it decided the whole momentum of the game,” said Dartmouth forward Dusan Neskovic, one of four seniors, and who led his team with 23 points. “Too many easy baskets. Too many straight-line drives (from) two guards who are really good on the ball.”

There just didn’t seem to be much fire in the hosts, who trailed, 39-22, at halftime. Eighth-year coach David McLaughlin at one point during the second half exhorted his bench to “clap it up!” only to receive exactly zero hand-smacks in return.

Penn shot an astronomical 52.5% from the field, including 45.2% from 3-point range. Combined with a 10-point scoring edge in the paint, the Quakers waltzed to their first victory since beating Dartmouth by 29 points during the teams’ league opener. Penn is 10-16 overall (following a 74-40 loss to Harvard on Saturday) and Dartmouth 5-19.

“It’s on the players to play better, and we have the talent to do that this year,” said center Jackson Munro, whose team surrendered several lay-up baskets out of the visitors’ half-court offense and on which no defender was within three steps of the hoop. “I think our coaches have done a great job.”

Does athletic director Mike Harrity feel the same, however? More than a half-dozen head coaches have exited since his arrival fewer than two years ago, and McLaughlin is 66-136 overall and 28-75 in league games during his time in Hanover.

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“It’s Division I basketball and people want to win, and when you resource a program, you deserve to win,” McLaughlin said. “I’m not worried about how hard the staff works or the quality of young men that we have, but (a coaching change) is always going to be on your mind at some point.”

Working against McLaughlin is that he was chosen for his job instead of current Cornell coach Brian Earl. The onetime Princeton associate coach has the formerly moribund Big Red in first place and will soon guide his squad in its fourth Ivy League tournament since he came aboard. Dartmouth has never qualified for the four-team even, which began in 2017.

Dartmouth has been bitten by the injury bug this season, which not only keeps players out of games but also hinders practices.

The Big Green dressed 11 players Friday and used them all.

Starting point guard Ryan Cornish hasn’t played since suffered an undisclosed injury during the Ivy League opener. The junior, who wasn’t on the Big Green bench Friday, has a 9.5-points-per-game career average.

The bottom line against Penn seemed to be effort, however. McLaughlin said his players needed to be ready and focused longer than the 15 or 20 seconds they put in during defensive possessions. The Quakers often outlasted them before capitalizing on relaxed stances and wandering minds.

“We’d have a breakdown, the ball would zip around and they’d make open shots,” the coach said.

Dartmouth closes its season with visits to Brown (5-6, 9-17)) and Yale (9-2, 18-8)) and by hosting Harvard (5-6, 14-10) on March 5.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.