ITHACA, N.Y. — Dartmouth utilized a 16-point run to rally from a 15-point deficit in the second half, but Cornell managed to pull out a 70-67 victory in the final seconds at Newman Arena on Friday night. Devin Cherry hit the game-winning free throw with 4.1 seconds on the clock, and the Big Green came up short on a desperation three at the buzzer.
The Big Red victory ended a 25-game losing streak against Division I competition dating back to last year as Cornell improved to 2-19 on the season and 1-6 in the Ivy league. Nolan Cressler led four Big Red players in double figures with 17 points while Dwight Tarwater registered a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Sophomore Alex Mitola led the furious rally with three three-pointers and a pair of free throws for 11 of the 16 points during the run. But it was senior Tyler Melville who led Dartmouth (9-12, 2-5 Ivy) with 14 points in the game, and junior John Golden matched a career-high with 11 rebounds.
Cornell led by 11 at the half, 31-20, and its lead wavered between seven and 11 points for the first six-plus minutes of the second stanza when Jake Matthews drained consecutive three-pointers to boost the Big Red advantage to 15 at 49-34. With 11:55 to go, Matthews added a pair of free throws to maintain that 15-point advantage, 51-36.
After a couple of missed opportunities at both ends of the floor, Mitola rained in his first three-pointer of the night. Sophomore Kevin Crescenzi hit his second triple of the game shortly thereafter to bring the difference back to single digits. When Mitola ripped the net for three more on the next possession, Cornell head coach Bill Courtney called a timeout to settle his squad.
On the inbounds pass, however, Crescenzi stole the ball and passed out to Mitola, who dropped in another trey, and suddenly Dartmouth trailed by just three, 51-48. The Big Red grabbed an offensive rebound on their next trip, but Cressler was whistled for a technical foul after the whistle blew, leading to two free throws by Mitola. Crescenzi capped the run by giving the Big Green the lead with a short jumper in the paint, making it 52-51 with seven minutes to go.
The two teams traded free throws before Golden spun a beautiful reverse layup off the glass and through the hoop for a 56-53 Big Green lead. Cornell reclaimed the lead with buckets from David Onuorah and Cressler, only to have Dartmouth answer back with a layup by sophomore Connor Boehm, who finished the game with 10 points.
Tarwater tied the game by hitting 1-of-2 at the line, and Melville matched those numbers to put the Green back up by one, 59-58. But Cherry drove for a layup, Tarwater hit a baseline jumper from 15 feet and Cherry scored a layup on a break after Darryl Smith blocked Mitola’s three-point attempt, putting Cornell up five, 64-59, with just 43 seconds to go.
Still Dartmouth would not give up. Boehm scored on a putback and was fouled. Although he missed the free throw, Melville got the rebound and was fouled as well. He sank the second of his two shots to close the gap to two with 32.6 seconds left, only to have Tarwater convert two free throws at the other end. Freshman three-point specialist Eli Harrison came off the bench to make it a one-point game with his triple near the top of the key, and with 16.3 seconds to go, Cherry hit 1-of-2 free throws, leaving the door open for the Big Green.
Melville went through that door, driving for the game-tying layup with 9.3 seconds left. With both teams out of timeouts, Cherry scampered back up the court to get to the rim, but was fouled on the way. He dramatically missed the first one, only to make the second to give the Big Red a 68-67 lead with 4.1 seconds left. Tarwater stole the ball near midcourt and was fouled as well with one second to play, sending him to the line where he hit both foul shots. Dartmouth got a desperation three-point attempt off from about 32 feet, but it was well off the mark as the buzzer sounded.
The Big Green struggled to get offense going in the first half, shooting just 7-of-23 (.304) from the floor while tallying just 20 points. Cornell, meanwhile, was 11-of-25 (.440) with four three-pointers to help it build the 11-point bulge at the break.
The second half was a different story as Dartmouth found its stroke, hitting 50 percent (17-of-34) overall and 5-of-13 (.385) from long range. And while the Green took better advantage of second-chance opportunities with 20 points to the Big Red’s seven, Cornell turned 12 Dartmouth turnovers into 19 points on the night, compared to just 11 points off 10 Big Red miscues.
Dartmouth finished the game with a slight shooting (42.1 percent to 40.7 percent) and rebounding edge (38-36), but Cornell’s edge at the line (20-of-29 compared to 13-of-21) proved to be the difference maker.
Dartmouth will get a chance to rebound from the close loss on Saturday night when it plays at Columbia (14-10, 3-4 Ivy), which lost in double-overtime to Harvard, 88-84. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. The Big Red get to host those Crimson (19-4, 6-1 Ivy) tomorrow night at 7 p.m. as well.
Notes: Dartmouth has lost 11 straight games in Ithaca, with the last victory coming in 2003 ... Golden also had 11 rebounds as a freshman against Elon on Dec. 17, 2011 ... the three-point loss marked the first Big Green game decided by fewer than seven this season ... the last time Dartmouth rallied from a 10-point deficit to win a game came against Army on Dec. 11, 2010.