Men Storm Back Behind Mitola's 25 Points in Victory Over Penn
HANOVER, N.H. — Sophomore Alex Mitola scored a season-high 25 points — 23 in the second half — to help Dartmouth overcome a seven-point halftime deficit and snap a five-game losing streak by defeating Penn, 67-58, on Friday night at Leede Arena. The win was not only the first in Ivy League play this year for the Big Green (8-9, 1-2 Ivy), but also the 200th for Paul Cormier as a head coach between two stints at Dartmouth and another at Fairfield.
Fran Dougherty supplied 19 points for the visiting Quakers, but could not keep them from dropping to 4-12 overall and 1-1 in the Ivy League.
Mitola and junior John Golden, who finished the game with season highs in points (15) and a rebounds (team-high eight), combined to score 34 of their 40 points in the second half. Golden was 6-for-8 from the floor with a three-pointer and a pair of free throws for his 15, while Mitola was 6-of-14 overall and 4-of-11 from downtown while canning 9-of-11 at the line. Sophomore Kevin Crescenzi joined the pair in double figures with 11 points as well.
Penn led for most of the first half as Dougherty scored 13 of his 19 points before the break. The Quaker lead was just three, however, with less than two minutes left in the frame when Miles Cartwright knocked down a 15-footer. Dartmouth had a chance to cut into that five-point deficit, but Mitola was off the mark on a three-point attempt, and Cartwright raced down the court in the final 5.3 seconds to beat the buzzer with a layup to send Penn into the locker room with a seven-point lead, 28-21.
Dartmouth was fortunate to be trailing by just seven at the break as it managed to shoot just 27.3 percent (6-of-22) from the floor over the first 20 minutes while Penn canned 57.1 percent (12-of-21). But four of the Big Green’s six field goals came from behind the arc as Crescenzi drilled all three of his long-range tries, allowing them to remain within striking distance.
Looking for a spark after the intermission, Cormier made a few changes to his lineup and replaced three of his starters. The strategy worked well as the group of four sophomores and a freshman went to work on the defensive end to limit the Quakers’ opportunities. At the offensive end, sophomore Matt Rennie provided the first points on a putback, then Mitola rained down three consecutive three-pointers in less than 90 seconds to briefly put the Big Green on top, 32-31.
The two teams battled back and forth for the next six minutes with neither side leading by more than two points. Even when Penn’s Steve Rennard popped a three, Golden answered with a trifecta of his own to knot the score again at 45 with 11 minutes to play.
As it turned out, the three-pointer started a 13-point Dartmouth run with Golden providing nine of those points, giving the Green a 55-45 lead with less than six minutes on the clock. Dougherty ended the Quakers’ six-minute scoring drought with a short jumper in the paint, only to have Mitola add his fourth and final three-pointer of the game.
With Dartmouth still holding a 10-point lead with less than three minutes to go, Golden plucked the ball away and went in for the breakaway dunk. Penn’s Tony Hicks made sure he didn’t score the easy bucket, but in the process was issued a flagrant two foul and ejected from the game.
Mitola hit two floaters in the lane in the final minutes, with the second giving Dartmouth its largest lead at 63-51 with just 1:29 to play. He then converted three of his last four foul shots, while sophomore Connor Boehm added another, to secure the Big Green’s first victory in the 2014 calendar year.
In contrast to the first half, Dartmouth finished the second stanza shooting 55.6 percent (15-of-27) while holding Penn to just 16 field goal attempts and 43.8 percent. The accuracy after halftime allowed the Big Green to finish the game at 42.9 percent (21-of-49), topping 40 percent for the first time since the new year began.
While Mitola was 9-of-11 for the game at the line, the rest of the team struggled, leaving Dartmouth just 16-of-29 at the charity stripe (.552). But even without the services of 6-9 center Gabas Maldunas and two other bigs due to injury and illness, the Big Green still managed to battle Penn to a draw on the boards at 29 apiece.
Dartmouth will be back in action on Saturday night when it hosts Princeton (12-4, 0-2 Ivy) at Leede Arena at 7 p.m. Penn travels to Cambridge with an eye on upsetting league-leading Harvard (16-3, 3-0 Ivy) in a game televised by NBC Sports Network at 9 p.m.
Notes: Cormier has 114 victories in his 11 seasons at the helm of the Big Green (1984-91, 2010-present) and won 86 games at Fairfield (1991-98) … Dartmouth dressed just 11 players and lost sophomore guard Malik Gill, who had four assists in just 12 minutes of action, early in the second half to an injury. He is listed as day-to-day … the Big Green have won two straight against Penn for the first time since 2009 and just the second time in the last 55 years.