Big Green relying on big man in victory


Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 01-30-2023 8:53 PM

HANOVER — Dame Adelekun entered postgame media availability Saturday wearing the net from the north basket at Leede Arena around his neck.

No, Adelekun hadn’t led the Dartmouth College men’s basketball team to an Ivy League championship, although the Big Green’s 83-73 win over last-place Columbia did give Dartmouth a 4-3 conference record halfway through Ivy play. Adelekun was wearing the net for his individual performance — he carried the Big Green through a must-win game with 41 points and 10 rebounds, becoming the first Dartmouth player with a 40-point game since Jim Barton had a program-record 48 in February 1987.

“This was the first net I’ve ever received in my life,” Adelekun said. “This really means a lot. This is going to be something I cherish for the entirety of my life, so I have to keep it safe somewhere.”

Following a 93-90 overtime loss the previous weekend at conference-leading Princeton, the Big Green (8-13, 4-3 Ivy League) had a perfect opportunity to bounce back against the reeling Lions, coming off two straight last-place finishes and on their way to a third. But Columbia took away the 3-point line on the defensive end — Dartmouth attempted a season-low 10 3-pointers, making just two — and was efficient from behind the arc on the offensive end, going 6-for-11 in the first half.

Still, the teams entered halftime with a 33-33 deadlock thanks almost entirely to Adelekun, who had 19 points by then on 8-for-11 shooting — and that was all after attempting (and missing) a rare 3-pointer on the game’s first possession. With the perimeter all but off limits thanks to the Lions’ defense, the Big Green continued to play through Adelekun in the second half, and the big man delivered time and time again.

The senior forward from Gastonia, N.C. showed impressive ball-handling skills for a player his size, repeatedly backing his way into the lane and finishing with layups, dunks or baby hooks.

For the most part, Columbia refused to double-team Adelekun, not wanting to leave an outside shooter open for him to kick the ball out to.

On the rare occasion Adelekun’s shots didn’t fall, it was usually because he was fouled — he drew 14 fouls in the game and paid it off with a 13-for-19 performance at the free throw line.

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Dartmouth shot 32 free throws in the game; the Lions, just eight.

“We played through him in various ways. The best thing about it is he was not rushed,” Big Green coach David McLaughlin said. “He took his time, he did a nice job getting to angles, and when you have the ball in your hands for that long, to have only two turnovers was pretty impressive as well.”

Adelekun made his second appearance of the season on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays for an early second-half sequence in which he spun past a defender for a dunk, then swatted a layup attempt out of bounds at the other end six seconds later.

Dartmouth led by six at that point, but after Adelekun went to the bench, Columbia reeled off nine straight points to go in front, and the teams spent several minutes exchanging one-point leads before the Big Green finally created some separation with a Ryan Cornish midrange jumper and a Cam Krystkowiak dunk off a feed from Adelekun.

With a rebound on a missed free throw in the final 30 seconds, Adelekun became just the fourth Division I men’s basketball player this season to record a 40-point double-double, and his 41 points were the most by a Big Green player in the 35-year history of Leede Arena.

“I apply a lot of pressure with my play style,” Adelekun said. “It’s really hard to guard, and they got frustrated after a while and kept on fouling me. The same way you feel about games, the other teams feel that, so the best way to counteract that is to be the stressor and apply pressure on them. I embodied that message and tried to put as much pressure to Columbia as I could.”

The victory lifted Dartmouth into a third-place tie with Yale in the Ivy League standings, and the Big Green hold the tiebreaker thanks to a road win over the Bulldogs on Jan. 6. Dartmouth entered conference play on a five-game losing streak and failed to crack 60 points in any of those games, but the Big Green have broken that threshold in all seven Ivy contests, reaching 70 points five times and 80 on three occasions.

With Brown, Harvard and Penn just one game behind Dartmouth, the pressure will be on the Big Green to qualify for the Ivy League Tournament, which requires a top-four spot in the standings, for the first time since the event began in 2017. The second half of the conference schedule kicks off with a critical back-to-back at home against Brown — which defeated Dartmouth in Providence, R.I. on Jan. 7 — on Friday and Yale on Saturday.

“We’re doing some different things offensively, which we needed to do,” McLaughlin said. “We’re getting some bench production consistently. The shot-making has been really good for us, having an identity of playing inside-out has been good for us, and when you’re in tight games, that’s just great experience. We’ve come out on top in a couple tight ones, and that’s going to give you confidence and belief moving into the next game.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at or 603-727-3302.