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Brief Lead Does Not Hold Up at IPFW in 56-51 Loss

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Senior David Rufful     By Sam Wasson
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Dartmouth took its only lead with 5:05 play on a three-pointer by senior Jabari Trotter, but three consecutive offensive fouls and missed opportunities allowed host IPFW to recover and knock off the Big Green on Tuesday night at the Memorial Coliseum, 56-51. Frank Gaines led the Mastodons with 21 points — 14 in the second half to help IPFW improve to 6-3 on the season. Dartmouth dropped its fourth straight game in falling to 2-7 on the year, despite 15 points from senior David Rufful.

The Big Green evened the game for the first time with little more than nine minutes to play when Rufful drained one of his three three-pointers on the night. When Gaines answered with a three-point play the hard way, junior R.J. Griffin responded with a long-range bomb to tie the score again at 42.

Trey McCorkle, who finished the night with 11 points, reclaimed the lead for the Mastodons with a jumper. A minute later, Gaines laid one in following an McCorkle rebound off a Mastodon missed free throw.

But Dartmouth fought right back as freshman John Golden streaked into the lane for an easy deuce, and Trotter provided his triple the next time down the floor for a 47-46 Big Green lead.

Three times Dartmouth had an opportunity to extend its lead as the Big Green defense held its ground. But on each instance, an offensive foul gave the ball right back to IPFW. The Mastodons finally took advantage when Gaines sank two free throws to put them back on top. Missed shots at the Dartmouth end of the court led to a pair of McCorkle buckets to suddenly give IPFW a five-point bulge with 1:14 to go. Twice the Big Green closed the gap to four — once on a Golden three-pointer with 10 seconds left — but they never had the chance to tie the score in the waning seconds.

IPFW opened the game with eight straight points and briefly extended its lead to 11 at 14-3 (the only double-digit lead of the night) with the lone Big Green points coming on a three-point play by Golden. But a couple of successful trips to the foul line and a long-range bomb by Rufful brought Dartmouth back to within four thanks to the seven-point spurt.

The two teams played a see-saw battle for the remainder of the half with the Green getting as close as three points once and the Mastodons extending their lead to as much as eight with 2:21 before the buzzer. But a nifty move in the post by junior Matt LaBove led to a layup, and 1-of-2 at the line by sophomore Tyler Melville allowed Dartmouth to close the gap to five points by the break at 27-22.

The Big Green were held to just 29.2 percent (7-of-24) from the floor in the opening stanza and were turned the ball over nine times. But IPFW was under 40 percent on its field goals as well (.385), including 1-of-8 on threes, while missing half of its 12 free throws to help keep Dartmouth within striking distance. The Mastodons held a slight edge on the boards, 20-18.

In the second half, freshman Gabas Maldunas (averaging 10.1 points a game entering the night) scored on a layup to get the offense started for the Big Green. But those would be the only points of the night for the 6-8 forward as he was in foul trouble throughout the game.

Dartmouth closed the gap to two twice on a Melville layup and a Rufful pull-up jumper, but a 9-3 IPFW spurt capped by a Gaines one-hand jam put the Mastodons up eight once again at 39-31. Dartmouth quickly scored eight straight to tie the game at 39 when Rufful sandwiched two of his trifectas around a Trotter jumper, setting up the final race down the stretch.

Rufful hit 5-of-10 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from downtown, plus drained both of his foul shots to account for his 15 points. Golden chipped in with 11 points while sinking four of his five field goals. Four Big Green players grabbed five rebounds to help Dartmouth match IPFW on the glass with 35 rebounds apiece.

Gaines needed 18 shots to tally his 21 points, hitting eight field goals and sinking 5-of-6 at the line. McCorkle led all players with eight rebounds.

Dartmouth hit 18-of-50 (.360) from the floor for the game, but poured in seven three-pointers in just 16 attempts (.438), including 6-of-9 in the second half. At the other end, the Mastodons shot 42.0 percent (21-of-50) but managed just one triple in 11 tries and 13-of-24 (.542) at the line. The Big Green finished the game with 20 turnovers, compared to just 15 miscues for IPFW.

Dartmouth returns to Hanover for a single game on Saturday against Elon (7-2) at noon before taking to the road for three games before Christmas. IPFW plays again on Sunday at Tennessee-Martin in a tilt at 2 p.m.