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Mitola, Maldunas Lead Big Green to Third Win in Last Four

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Freshman Alex Mitola scampers up the court after stealing the ball in the final seconds to...     By Mark Washburn

HANOVER, N.H. — Freshman Alex Mitola scored 21 points and sophomore Gabas Maldunas added 16 to lead Dartmouth to a 64-58 victory in its season finale over Columbia at Leede Arena on Saturday evening. With the victory, the Big Green (9-19, 5-9 Ivy) swept the season series from the Lions and finished the season strong by winning three of their last four contests to climb out of the basement and into a tie for sixth. Columbia (12-16, 4-10 Ivy) dropped to the bottom of the league standings with the loss.

Mitola was very efficient on the night, hitting 6-of-8 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from three-point range, plus converted 5-of-6 at the foul line to record his second career 20-point game. Maldunas provided the muscle down low, knocking down 4-of-8 field goals and 8-of-10 free throws, plus snared a game-high nine rebounds. Joining the duo in double figures was freshman Connor Boehm with 12 points.

Columbia also had a trio with at least 10 points, led by Brian Barbour with 17, including a perfect 8-of-8 at the line. Grant Mullins and Alex Rosenberg each had 13, but the Lions as a team shot just 34.1 percent (15-of-44) in the game, but 84.6 percent (22-of-26) at the line. Dartmouth, meanwhile, hit a robust 54.3 percent (19-of-35) from the floor and 87.0 percent (20-of-23) from the charity stripe.

The Big Green trailed at the break by six, 33-27, and Columbia opened the second stanza with a pair of Barbour free throws to match its biggest lead of the night at eight. Three minutes later, however, Dartmouth roared back at the Lions with 11 straight points, the first eight being provided by Boehm to tie the score with a layup, three-pointer and old-fashioned three-point play. Mitola capped the run with a high-arcing three-point bomb for a 38-35 Dartmouth lead.

After two foul shots by Mark Cisco and a Grant Mullins triple put Columbia back up by two, Big Green freshman Malik Gill launched one from downtown and got a soft, high bounce off the rim to fall through for a 41-40 lead. That advantage grew to four just a few minutes later when Mitola rained in another trey, only to have Rosenberg quickly answer with one of his own.

With 7:20 to go, Columbia’s Isaac Cohen knotted the score at 48 apiece with a driving layup in traffic. The two sides then traded layups before Maldunas hit the first of two free throws for a one-point Big Green edge. A Barbour bucket swung the lead back in the Lions’ favor, the last for Columbia on the night as, Mitola swished a soft shot from 18 feet a minute later.

The rest of Dartmouth’s scoring came at the free throw line as the Green converted 11-of-12 over the final three minutes to keep Columbia at bay. Barbour did manage to make a wild layup with 13.5 seconds left to bring Columbia within three, but Dartmouth continued to made each of its last four foul shots.

The Lions led for nearly the entire first half, jumping out to a 6-0 lead in the first 70 seconds of play. Mitola managed to tie the score at nine with a three-pointer and again at 11 with a long jumper before sophomore John Golden sank two free throws to give the Green their only lead of the opening half at 13-11. Columbia scored the next 10 points in just over two minutes, capped by consecutive three-pointers by Mullins, causing Dartmouth head coach Paul Cormier to call time with just under eight minutes on the clock and the score 21-13.

Maldunas helped the Big Green close the gap to two at 22-20, scoring five of those seven points, but on the strength of its foul shooting, Columbia had a six-point bulge at 33-27. Both Rosenberg and Mullins had 10 points to lead the Lions, while Maldunas had nine and Mitola eight. Dartmouth did shoot 62.5 percent (10-of-16), but 11 first-half turnovers contributed to the scoring differential.

The sweep is the first for the Big Green against a league opponent since knocking off Penn twice in 2008-09. Maldunas finished the year leading the Ivy League in rebounding in conference play at 7.4 per game (barring a 22-rebound effort from Princeton’s Ian Hummer on Tuesday at Penn), while the team had the best free throw percentage in league play at 79.3 percent.

Dartmouth also honored its lone senior, captain Matt LaBove, before the game. The center played in 107 games during his career, tied for sixth most in school history, and had 302 points, 273 rebounds and 30 blocked shots.