HANOVER, N.H. — Dartmouth sophomore Gabas Maldunas scored a career-high 28 points to lead the Big Green to a 76-62 victory over visiting Cornell on Friday night at Leede Arena. Joining him in double figures were freshman Alex Mitola with 15 points and junior Tyler Melville with 13 as Dartmouth (8-19, 4-9 Ivy) won for the second time in the last three games.
Errick Peck nearly matched Maldunas with 26 points for Cornell (13-17, 5-8 Ivy), but the Big Red shot less than 40 percent from the floor (21-of-53) to drop its fifth straight contest. Dartmouth, meanwhile, enjoyed its finest shooting night against a Division I team this season, knocking down 25-of-48 shots (.521).
While Maldunas was hitting 9-of-14 from the floor and 10-of-12 at the line to score his 28 points, he was also working hard at the defensive end with a game-high eight rebounds and four blocks. Mitola scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half with all four of his three-pointers, and Melville was a perfect 4-of-4 on field goals and 5-of-6 on free throws, plus dished out a game-high five assists.
Maldunas asserted himself from the get-go, scoring 10 of the Big Green’s first 12 points with four buckets in the paint and a pair of foul shots. But Dartmouth never trailed in the first half, Cornell would not let the Green pull ahead by more than six points in the first 20 minutes of action.
Following a 12-footer by freshman Connor Boehm to give Dartmouth a 16-11 lead, the Big Red scored five straight points to tie the score at 16. But Maldunas immediately converted two free throws, then dished to freshman Brendan McDonnell for an easy layup the next trip down the floor for a four-point edge with 7:15 left in the stanza. The Big Green lead hovered between one and four points the rest of the half, and settled at 27-26 when Peck turned a Dartmouth miss in the final seconds into a fast-break layup.
The statistics at the break were about as even as the score with Dartmouth shooting slightly better at 45.5 percent to 37.5 percent, and rebounding slightly better (14-13), but with one more turnover (7-6). Both teams sank seven free throws and Cornell had the lone three-pointer.
The Big Red took their only lead at the outset of the second half when Peck canned a jumper in the lane on their first possession. Again Maldunas had a response, flushing home a two-hand jam on a bounce pass from Mitola. That dunk ignited a swift eight-point run in less than a minute of game time with layups by Melville and Golden and a pair of Melville free throws.
Peck broke the string with a layup, then Mitola — who had 57 three-pointers coming into the game — attempted his first long ball and swished it through for a 38-30 lead. Cornell continued to battle back, whittling its deficit down to two as Peck hit four freebies, only to have Mitola rain in back-to-back triples to boost the Big Green lead back to eight.
Melville gave Dartmouth its first double-digit lead with just under 13 minutes to play with layup off a fast break. The difference on the scoreboard oscillated between six and 11 points for the next nine-plus minutes until Maldunas scored his final two points of the night at the charity stripe with 3:08 to play for a 69-56 advantage. A technical foul on Cornell head coach Bill Courtney in the final seconds of the game allowed the Green to take its largest lead of the night at 17 points before Dwight Tarwater sank a three-pointer for the Big Red as the buzzer sounded.
For the third straight game, Dartmouth converted at least 84 percent of its free throws, draining 22-of-26 (.846). The Big Green maintained that one-rebound edge on the glass when the horn sounded, 28-27, but dished out 15 assists on the night, matching a season high against a Division I squad.
Dartmouth will honor its lone senior — captain Matt LaBove — before the final game of the season tomorrow against Columbia (12-15, 4-9 Ivy) at 7 p.m. Cornell finishes its 2012-13 campaign at Harvard (18-9, 10-3 Ivy), which is tied with Princeton (16-10, 9-3 Ivy) in the loss column for the Ivy League lead, with the tip at 7 p.m. as well.
Notes: LaBove scored his 300th career point with a pair of free throws in the first half ... a win against the Lions would pull the Big Green out of the conference cellar for the first time since 2008-09 when they were 7-7 and tied for fourth ... both Mitola and Maldunas assured themselves of finishing the year with a double-digit scoring average, the first Dartmouth players to do so since Alex Barnett in 2008-09 ... Mitola's 61 three-pointers on the season are a Dartmouth freshman record ... the all-time series between Cornell and Dartmouth is now tied, 103-103 ... the 10 free throws made were a career high for Maldunas, while the 28 points are the most by a Big Green player since R.J. Griffin scored 29 last season against Bryant on Nov. 19, 2011.