HANOVER, N.H.—Harvard and Dartmouth are headed in opposite directions after the first game of the Ivy League season, and the largest reason why is Big Green guard Leon Pattman.
In Dartmouth’s stunning 80-73 come-from-behind, overtime victory over Harvard Saturday night, Pattman, a senior, scored a game-high 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Dartmouth (6-7) has now won three straight and six of seven since the former Ivy League Rookie of the Year returned from an injured ankle.
Dartmouth lost its first six games of the year, all without Pattman, looking like the team that was selected by the league’s media to finish last in the Ivies. But after Saturday’s victory, the Big Green now appears to be a squad that could rise well above the basement.
And while Dartmouth is on an upswing, the Crimson (7-8), following a promising start in the non-league schedule, has entered the doldrums. Pattman’s stellar game translated into Harvard’s fourth loss in a row, dropping the squad below .500 on the year.
Harvard coach Frank Sullivan was well aware of Pattman’s potential, calling the 6’2 shooting guard one of the top two or three players in the Ivies before the league opener. The Crimson initially appeared to have taken Sullivan’s words to heart, as Harvard’s defenders held Pattman, who averaged 17 points in six games played entering Saturday, to just five points on 1-of-4 shooting before halftime.
Pattman, however, came out of the Dartmouth locker room determined to take over the game, and as his aggressiveness increased, the Big Green surged. On a series of spectacular drives, breakaways and long-range hits, Pattman scored 15 points in the second half and seven more in overtime, fueling the Dartmouth comeback from a 12-point halftime deficit.
“I’m a second-half player,” Pattman said. “My mother always tries to get me to come out aggressive the first half, but for some reason or another it just doesn’t happen. When the time’s running down, the clock’s against us, our back’s against the wall, that’s when I like to play.”
“They were looking for [Pattman] in the first half, like ‘Ok, take over, will you, #23?’ And he did in the second half,” Sullivan added.
The shot that got Pattman and the Big Green rolling came early in the second frame. Harvard was threatening to run away with the game, having scored four straight points to open up a 41-29 lead, when Pattman answered by nailing a three-pointer, the first long-range make of the game for either team. He then followed with a breathtaking move, slashing across the lane before putting in an up-and-under layup with his dominant left hand.
On the next Dartmouth possession, Pattman found forward Alex Barnett on the fast break with a pretty no-look feed. Barnett’s conversion led to a display of emotion from Pattman and an energetic explosion from the vocal Big Green student section at Leede Arena.
Down seven at that point, Dartmouth kept coming, and it was Pattman who finally put his team over the top. With the Crimson clinging to a 61-60 lead and under three minutes left in regulation, Pattman executed his second spectacular drive of the game. Using a behind-the-back dribble to lose his perimeter defender, Pattman cut through the lane and eluded Harvard senior center Brian Cusworth at the basket with a lefty scoop shot to give the Big Green a 62-61 lead.
After a Dartmouth steal on the other end, Pattman took the outlet pass and ran the floor for a breakaway and a three point lead.
The Crimson tied the game on captain Jim Goffredo’s long three-pointer, but Pattman was not going to be turned away from victory. The teams traded baskets on consecutive possessions to begin overtime before Pattman got the ball beyond the three-point arc, took several dribbles and pulled up, drilling the trey to put Dartmouth up for good, 71-68.
“I think Leon shows why he was rookie of the year his freshman year, and I think what he brings is a great sense of confidence, and knowing that when he has the basketball, we have a great opportunity to score,” Dartmouth coach Terry Dunn said. “It’s always good to look to that upperclassman and know that when the going gets tough, he can produce, and he did produce tonight.”
Pattman also chipped in on the defensive end, collecting four blocks, three of which came on attempts by sharpshooter Goffredo. Pattman and the rest of the Big Green’s long, rangy guards were able to completely stifle the Crimson’s perimeter game, as Harvard was just 1-of-11 from three-point range on the night.
The 27-point output was two shy of Pattman’s career high of 29, set during his standout freshman year, when he averaged 13.2 points per game in winning the league’s rookie honors. Since that season, Pattman has faced a good measure of adversity, missing all but four games of his sophomore year due to injury, suffering through a dismal 6-21 Dartmouth campaign last season in which he averaged 10.9 points and started only 14 of the team’s games, and being shelved to start this year with the ankle ailment.
Now, however, Pattman looks to be finally realizing the tremendous potential he flashed three years ago, and he is threatening to take Dartmouth along for an unexpected ride in his final collegiate season.
—Staff writer Caleb W. Peiffer can be reached at email@example.com.