Defeating Harvard in the Ancient Eight opener for the first time in 12 seasons, Dartmouth walked off Leede Arena on Saturday night to a standing ovation in its 81-63 rout of the Crimson.
The Big Green (10-7, 1-0 Ivy) shot an impressive 68.1 percent from the field, including 11 triples for a team with three players averaging 48 percent or higher from deep. Eight of those triples came in a first frame which saw Dartmouth jump out to a 44-29 lead. Harvard (6-7, 0-1) narrowed the gap to nine with four minutes left on a clock that seemed to tick too fast for the visitors, but could not draw the contest any closer.
“[Dartmouth] played really well together and shot the ball really well,” coach Tommy Amaker said. “Disappointed in the areas we were deficient in, we didn’t finish well around the rim and at the foul line. When you are on the road you have to do those things there.”
Beyond the accurate shooting from long range, the Big Green saw another all-around dominant performance from sophomore forward Chris Knight, who outscored counterpart Chris Lewis 20 to 12 while adding 3 blocks. The Madison, Wisc., native’s 8-of-10 performance was complemented by three other Dartmouth starters in double figures. Junior guard Brendan Barry, who leads the nation in three-point accuracy at 51.8 percent, contributed three more triples to his season tally.
The Crimson starting unit opened up the contest sluggishly but held onto a narrow 17-13 margin halfway through the first frame thanks to a offensive jolt from bench contributors. First year guard Noah Kirkwood contributed two early layups alongside opportunities underneath the rim for bigs Henry Welsh and Mason Forbes.
“I thought we started fairly well and decent on the defensive end,” Amaker said. “ I thought [Dartmouth] adjusted and settled in and made shots and got their confidence going.”
The latter portion of the half was a completely different narrative, as alluded to by Amaker. The galore of three pointers began for the Big Green as a 19-18 deficit flipped into a 10-point lead thanks to converted triples on three consecutive possessions. Another trio of treys completed the 8-of-14 first half outing, and the Crimson equally had few answers for Knight in the interior. The balanced offensive attack resulted in 12 Dartmouth assists in the frame, double the Crimson’s mark.
Also giving the Crimson coaching staff headaches were numerous easy opportunities at the rim off pick-and-roll feeds or back cuts for Coach McLaughlin’s side. With the Big Green’s most imposing big Will Emery injured for this contest, Dartmouth countered its relative lack of size with quickness and ball movement on the offensive end.
Of the Crimson’s 29 first half points, seven came at the hands of junior guard Christian Juzang — who seemed at times to be the sole spirited spark in the middle of the Harvard scoring abyss. The starting point guard finished the contest with a team-high 20 points with three triples of his own. That point tally is his highest of the season and first double-digit night in four games.
The Crimson did make things more interesting in the second frame, at the minimum giving over-confident fans in Hanover second thoughts about leaving the game early.
The Big Green pulled itself out to its largest lead of the contest(21) at the 16:09 mark but subsequently went cold from deep (and the field) as Harvard veered closer to breaking its double-digit margin. A 12-2 run from the 14-minute point to 10-minute mark brought the Crimson the scoreline to 59-49 as coach McLaughlin called a timeout. In that span, Lewis regained some confidence back in his interior finishing with two layups while Juzang added two more finishes at the rim.
That break in action by McLaughlin proved to be an astute decision. Dartmouth regained its defensive composure and halted the bleeding. In the final minutes of action, with the lead still nailed at around 10, the Big Green pulled out the dagger with two critical threes(once again) by junior guard James Foye.
In more uplifting news for Crimson supporters, the much-anticipated return of former Ivy Rookie of the Year Bryce Aiken appears to be on the horizon. Aiken dressed for the first time this season and engaged in pregame warmups, but remained on the bench throughout this game. Classmate Seth Towns, the other critical piece missing for Harvard this season, has similarly warmed up prior to recent games and his return to the court appears to be fast-approaching.
The Crimson has one more non-conference contest against Howard wedged in between its Dartmouth doubleheader and will head down to Washington D.C. for Martin Luther King Day. With students returning back to campus the following weekend, the sequel of this matchup will also be in store on Jan. 26.
“Hopefully we can correct [our mistakes], get better, and get ready for the next one,” Amaker concluded.
— Staff writer Henry Zhu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Zhuhen88.