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Senior Night Spoiled by Hot-Shooting Princeton

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By Mark Washburn

HANOVER, N.H. — Dartmouth seniors Kirk Crecco, David Rufful and Jabari Trotter did not get the send-off they had hoped for in the final Big Green home game of the season as Princeton torched the nets at a 65.4 percent clip and dealt Dartmouth its worst loss of the season on Saturday night at Leede Arena, 85-61. Princeton (16-11, 7-4 Ivy) also drilled 12-of-17 (.706) from three-point range as Patrick Saunders led the way going 4-for-4 behind the arc in scoring a team-high 14 points.

Dartmouth (5-23, 1-11 Ivy) got a season-high 21 points from freshman wing John Golden and 10 apiece from sophomore point guard Tyler Melville and freshman power forward Gabas Maldunas. While the Tigers were lighting it up from all over the court, the Big Green shot just 37.3 percent (19-of-51) overall and 5-of-16 (.313) from downtown. They did enjoy great success at the free throw line, however, knocking down 18-of-21 (.857).

Although Princeton never trailed in the game, its lead hovered between one and five points for the first 10-plus minutes. Twice Maldunas brought Dartmouth within one with buckets in the paint, leaving the Tigers with an 11-10 advantage. After a Brendan Connolly layup, Golden canned a jumper to keep the deficit at one, but Jimmy Sherburne rained in a wide-open three.

Golden sank one-of-two at the line before Denton Koon gave the Tigers a five-point lead again at 18-13, but junior Matt LaBove tapped in a Big Green miss and Golden brought the crowd of 1,008 to its feet with a breakaway two-hand slam, making it an 18-17 contest with 9:30 to play in the half.

Princeton took off from there, drilling seven of its next eight shots and both free throws during a 19-2 run. Back-to-back three-pointers by Mack Darrow and Douglas Davis doubled the lead from six to 12 at 31-19, sending the Tigers on their way. When the buzzer sounded for halftime, Princeton owned a 40-24 lead.

In the second half, Golden did his best to keep Dartmouth in the game, scoring 14 of his squad’s first 18 points. The trouble was that the Tigers never slowed down. When Golden hit a three-pointer with 10:14 left to play in the middle of his spurt, Princeton had already taken its largest lead at 29 points thanks to going 10-of-14 from the floor to start the stanza. Each field goal was either a layup or a three-pointer, including three consecutive trifectas that opened up that 29-point bulge at 60-31.

The closest the Big Green got in the final minutes was 21 points after one of freshman Will McConnell’s two three-pointers and again on one final dunk by Golden to give him his first career 20-point game. But in the end, Princeton finished the game the way it started it — draining a triple to bring the scoring to a close.

Joining Saunders in double figures for the Tigers were Connolly and Ian Hummer with 11 points, as well as Koon with 10. Princeton was able to find an open man time and again as evidenced by its 25 assists on 34 field goals. One night after Dartmouth did not allow a single reserve to score in a three-point loss to Penn, the Tigers got 40 points from their bench.

Golden finished the night 6-of-10 from the floor with a pair of treys and 7-of-9 at the line to account for his 21 points. Maldunas, who came up with a season-high five steals, led all players with eight rebounds, although Princeton did have a slight edge on the glass, 27-25.

Dartmouth will finish its season on the road when it travels to Cornell (11-15, 6-6 Ivy) and Columbia (14-14, 3-9 Ivy) next Friday and Saturday evenings, respectively. Tip-off in Ithaca, N.Y., against the Big Red on March 2 will be at 7 p.m. Princeton, which still has an outside shot at sharing the conference crown thanks to Penn’s victory over Harvard this evening, will host Yale (19-7, 9-3 Ivy) at 7 p.m. on Friday as well.