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Playing from the inside out

  • Dartmouth’s Dame Adelekun (32) shoots a layup during a game against California State University Bakersfield at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. Dartmouth won, 79-54. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

  • Dartmouth’s Jackson Munro (33) looks for a pass while being guarded by California State University Bakersfield’s Ugnius Jarusevicius (21) during a game at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. Dartmouth won, 79-54. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth players prepare to return to the court after a timeout pep talk from Head Coach David McLaughlin, center, during a game against California State University Bakersfield at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. Dartmouth won, 79-54. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

  • Dartmouth’s Ryan Cornish (10) looks for a pass while being guarded by California State University Bakersfield’s Modestas Kancleris (55) during a game at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. Dartmouth won, 79-54. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/5/2022 9:36:07 PM
Modified: 12/5/2022 9:36:11 PM

HANOVER — If the Dartmouth College men’s basketball team is going to live and die by the 3-pointer this season, the Big Green’s performance Saturday against Cal State Bakersfield was a good place to start.

Dartmouth (4-5) hit 13 shots from behind the arc for the third time, but the first against a Division I opponent, in a 79-54 win over the Roadrunners at Leede Arena. The victory was easily the Big Green’s most complete game of the season, and it was just their second Division I triumph, joining a one-point overtime win at Texas-San Antonio on Nov. 27.

“We certainly want to shoot threes in our offense, but a lot of them came from inside-out offense,” coach David McLaughlin said. “There are drives, there are reversals, the ball’s hitting the post. When you can get threes like that, those are the threes you want to take. It showed in our assist-to-made-basket ratio.”

The Big Green had 17 assists on 27 made field goals, finishing 13-of-29 from distance. That quantity of attempts falls right in line with their season average — Dartmouth is 17th out of 352 Division I teams with 28.7 3-point attempts per game.

The vast majority of those attempts are coming from players who did not have major roles last year. The Big Green’s three leading scorers all moved on, with Brendan Barry and Aaryn Rai exhausting their eligibility and Taurus Samuels transferring to Minnesota.

That left senior forward Dame Adelekun and sophomore guard Ryan Cornish as the returners with the most experience, closely followed by senior forward Cam Krystkowiak and junior guard Izaiah Robinson.

Dartmouth’s inexperience has been especially felt on the defensive end — in regulation against Division I foes, the Big Green are allowing a shade under 75 points per game. They opened the season with an 88-74 loss to Fordham and an 89-70 loss to Bryant, then wasted another 70-plus point effort against Quinnipiac in an 81-72 defeat.

The performance against Bakersfield was an encouraging sign that the defense may be turning a corner, a year after Dartmouth had the top scoring defense in the Ivy League.

“We want to defend a certain way, and it takes time to get to where we want to be defensively,” McLaughlin said. “Guys have to learn and buy in. When we do this the right way, we can win games and we can beat teams on the road. It’s just another small step in figuring out who we are.”

Dusan Neskovic, a junior forward from Bosnia and Herzegovina, has emerged as the Big Green’s leading scorer with 14 points per game. Neskovic averaged just six minutes per game last season but has been accurate from 3-point range this year — he’s nailed 11 of his 20 attempts, starting with a 5-for-6 performance against Fordham.

Just two minutes into the first game of Dartmouth’s Thanksgiving trip to San Antonio, Neskovic was poked in the eye against Incarnate Word and missed the rest of that game as well as the next three. But after coming off the bench in his return against Bakersfield, his vision seemed just fine. Neskovic was 3-for-5 on 3-pointers and had 17 points.

“I’m blessed to be out there again with the guys,” Neskovic said. “I recovered pretty quickly. It was pretty bad at the time, it was hurting for quite awhile, and now it’s getting better.”

Cornish, in his first year as the starting point guard, is averaging 12.6 points per game and plays bigger than his 6-foot-3-inch, 170-pound frame, showing a willingness to take charges from much taller and heavier players. Adelekun, at 6-foot-8, patrols the post and recorded his first double-double of the year Saturday with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Robinson, who made his first collegiate start Saturday, and sophomore guard Romeo Myrthil have settled into more significant roles, and freshmen Brandon Mitchell-Day and Jackson Munro have found spots in the rotation. Mitchell-Day had 18 points in just 17 minutes in the home opener against Bryant.

“Knowing I’m coming into a bigger role didn’t really change how I was going to work in the offseason,” Cornish said. “It was also tough because I came off a wrist injury, so the whole summer, I didn’t have much time to work out. But the preparation before every game, that’s what’s most crucial for me to really lock in.”

Dartmouth has not finished .500 in Ivy League play since 2015 and last finished above that mark in 1999. Now in McLaughlin’s sixth season, the Big Green start conference play on New Year’s Day against Cornell.

Before that, though, come six more non-conference games, starting with Tuesday’s home showdown against Vermont. The Catamounts, six-time defending champions in the America East Conference, have beaten Dartmouth in the teams’ last 13 meetings.

“They’re a terrific program,” McLaughlin said. “Talk about having an identity. They know who they are. There are a lot of guys on that team who have had a lot of wins and experience. We have to continue to form that identity of how we’re going to take it at them.”

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


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