Big Green stays in Ivy League tournament hunt

By BENJAMIN ROSENBERG

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 02-11-2023 9:05 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth’s chase for its first-ever Ivy League men’s basketball tournament berth, which was thrown off course a week ago? It’s back on.

Led by a combined 46 points from senior forward Dame Adelekun and junior forward Dusan Neskovic, the Big Green used a torrid start to the second half to build a 15-point lead, then held on for an 83-76 win over first-place Princeton on Saturday.

The Tigers had cut that Dartmouth lead to two points with two minutes left, aided by an effective 1-3-1 zone defense that led to nine Dartmouth turnovers in the second half. But the Big Green (9-15, 5-5 Ivy League) made their foul shots count, going 18-for-19 from the free-throw line to salt away the victory.

“Guys were playing with a lot of confidence,” Dartmouth coach David McLaughlin said. “They were making the right play, they were moving the ball, we were playing inside-out. When you’re doing that and you’re playing in rhythm, free throws tend to be a little bit easier.”

Adelekun was limited to just 18 minutes and six points in the Big Green’s first matchup with the Tigers — a 93-90 overtime loss on Jan. 21 — due to foul trouble, though he did make all three of his field-goal attempts. He played a much cleaner game Saturday, finishing the first half foul-free and going 10-for-14 from the field for 25 points. The big man even nailed both attempts from 3-point range, improving to 5-for-9 from deep this season.

Neskovic, who scored 24 points in New Jersey three weeks ago, had 21 this time on 7-for-11 shooting, including 3-for-5 from behind the arc. He and Adelekun had 19 points between them during a 30-8 spurt that spanned nine minutes early in the second half, a stretch that saw Dartmouth turn a 42-35 deficit into a 65-50 lead.

Perhaps the biggest play of that extended run was a flagrant foul called on Princeton’s Zach Martini for knocking Neskovic to the ground as he went up for a layup. Neskovic made both free throws to tie the game at 42, and on the ensuing possession, sophomore guard Ryan Cornish found Adelekun for a layup to give the Big Green the lead for good.

“I had no fouls the first half, so I felt like I able to just focus on doing me,” Adelekun said. “(I was) going full speed, not trying to play tentative, and playing as hard as I could.”

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Coming off two lackluster performances last weekend in home defeats to hot Brown and Yale squads, the Big Green came out firing, scoring the game’s first 10 points, before Princeton (16-7, 7-3) appeared to take control with a 16-4 run. Tigers guard Ryan Langborg hit a trio of early 3-pointers, and Princeton forward Caden Pierce hit three of his own in a span of just over a minute late in the first half.

Beyond that, though, Dartmouth defended the perimeter well, holding the Tigers to 9-for-30 from long range. Princeton’s leading scorer, forward Tosan Evbuonwam, had 23 points on an efficient 8-for-12 shooting, but outside of him, the visitors shot just 34% for the game.

Sophomore guard Romeo Myrthil was another bright spot, playing 29 minutes off the bench, mostly in place of junior starter Izaiah Robinson. Myrthil finished with 12 points and five rebounds, making two of three 3-point attempts and remaining perfect for the season at the foul line.

“He’s been producing in practice, and the staff said we need to give him a shot. He grasped his opportunity,” McLaughlin said. “He didn’t just make some 3-pointers and free throws, but he played great on both ends of the ball.”

The win put the Big Green back in the thick of a tight Ancient Eight race, with six teams at or above .500 in conference play. Dartmouth is tied with Cornell and a game behind Brown and Penn for the final spot in the four-team Ivy League tournament heading into next weekend’s road back-to-back against the Big Red and last-place Columbia.

“When you go back-to-back losses, when they’re so crucial this late in the season, every day in practice matters,” Cornish said. “Every day we took super seriously. We were super locked in, no funny business, no joking around. In the long run, trusting our coaches is going to get us where we want to be.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.

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