Ryan Cornish ’25 led the team in scoring in his first collegiate start.
On Saturday, the men’s basketball team took down Ivy League rival Brown University 58-46 for their first win of the season against an Ivy opponent. The team is now 1-1 in conference play after a 79-71 loss to Cornell on Jan. 2 and holds a 4-9 overall record this season. The win over Brown extended Dartmouth’s program record vs Brown to 82-80 and prevented the Bears from evening the score.
The Bears came out of the gate strong, going on a 10-0 run in the first four minutes of the game. Coming off of a victory against Harvard University the night before, the Bears had all the momentum. Dartmouth guard Ryan Cornish ’25, who had his first career start Saturday and led the Big Green in scoring with 14 points, combined with Dame Adelekun ’23, who scored 11 points and hauled in 12 rebounds in the Big Green win, to score Dartmouth’s first 12 points and put a stop to the run. The first half ended with Dartmouth on top, 24-23.
To start the second half, Cornish opened up the scoring with his second 3-pointer of the night, widening the Dartmouth lead. Despite a three-minute scoring drought and runs from both teams in the second half, Dartmouth managed to pull out the win due in large part to a 14-point run in the middle of the half.
The Big Green’s season so far has been defined by narrow losses. Four of the Big Green’s nine defeats this season have been by a margin of six points or fewer.
Fifth year forward Aaryn Rai ’21 said that Dartmouth’s ability to close out Saturday’s game demonstrated improvement in those situations.
“All the games we’ve played for the past month [have] all been close games,” Rai said. “Knowing we were in the same situation last night but pulled off the win means a lot, because it shows we’ve learned from those situations and understand what each person and the team collectively needs to do to come together and win.”
With neither team shooting over 34% from the field, it was a physical and defensive game. Dartmouth had nine steals total, four of which came from graduate student guard Brendan Barry ’20. On the glass, the Big Green ended with a season-high 43 rebounds; Adelekun led the team with 12, seven of which were offensive. According to Rai, who had seven rebounds himself, this was a focus going into the game.
“Coach said these guys are really good on the glass and that it would take a good effort from everyone to beat them,” Rai said. “We tried to really attack the glass, especially when they were coming off a really big game [against Harvard] and were trying to out-physical us… We didn’t shoot super great, but I thought we really defended well, and that was the difference maker.”
Cornish stepped into Taurus Samuels ’22’s role after the latter was sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19. As a freshman replacing a senior leader in one of the biggest games of the season, Cornish knew he had to step up, and he did; despite the team’s shooting slump, he shot 40% from three and 62.5% from the field to lead the team in scoring.
“With Taurus, he’s one of our leaders, so I knew I had to be more vocal on the court,” Cornish said. “I was talking to myself all before the game knowing how important it was to earn a good reputation in my first start. Playing well in the game showed I can be relied on when I need to.”
Samuels credited a lot of the win to Cornish.
“Ryan really got us going and got some big buckets for us,” Samuels said. “It’s awesome seeing that, because for a lot of our guys on the roster, these are their first Ivy League games, so it’s really cool to see him take that opportunity and take advantage of it. Everyone knows Brendan, everyone knows Aaryn, so when we have guys off the bench — or even on the starting lineup — contribute, it just makes our team that much better and harder for other teams to scout and defend us.”
With increased COVID-19 transmission on Dartmouth’s campus and in the region, the Big Green has faced setbacks, such as Samuels and forward Dusan Neskovic ’24 having to sit out of the game against Brown. In addition, games against the University of New Hampshire on Dec. 29 and Yale University on Jan. 7 were postponed and have yet to be rescheduled, and Tuesday’s game against Northern Vermont University, Johnson has been postponed as well.
Dartmouth has also changed its spectator policy with the COVID-19 outbreak — the only spectators allowed in the arena for Saturday’s game were those put on a limited guest list. According to Samuels, these postponements and other COVID-19 protocols have been frustrating.
“After having our season canceled last year, it’s tough to have games postponed and canceled,” Samuels said. “We just came off a year of not being able to play and we’re still having these things happen to us. We have a pretty close group of guys that love the game and each other so we’re just trying to be there for each other and stay locked in and win the games we do get to play.”
Despite the potential obstacles this season has in store, the team is staying focused on earning an Ivy League playoff berth, which requires a top four record; currently, Dartmouth is tied with Columbia University for fourth. According to Rai, the team is trying to focus on each individual game right now rather than be distracted by the big picture.
“You can get lost if you think about all the games in a row, so what we try to do is take one game at a time because each game is as challenging as the next one,” Rai said. “Right now, we’re going to lock in on [the University of Pennsylvania] and have a couple good days of practice so we can attack Penn like we did Brown.”
As the Big Green dives into the second half of the season, Cornish knows that it’s now or never.
“We need to start winning now if we want a chance to make it to the Ivy League tournament,” he said. “Obviously we don’t want to get one win and start losing again — we want to ride this momentum out and get to the top of the Ivy.”