BOSTON — Throughout the front half of the season, the Dartmouth men’s basketball team showed that it had earned its spot in the conversation among the top teams in the Ivy League after years mired at the bottom of the conference.
However, Saturday showed that the Big Green still have a way to go to claim their spot atop the Ivy.
In a game that featured four lead changes and eight ties, the Green failed to convert down the stretch as they fell to Harvard 64-59 at a packed Lavietes Pavilion. The loss drops Dartmouth to 10-7 overall and 1-1 in conference. The Green beat Harvard 81-63 back in Hanover on Jan 12.
“I just told our guys in the locker room it came down to a couple plays,” Dartmouth coach David McLaughlin said. “They made a couple more plays than we did at the end. We made a couple mistakes. It starts with my coaching, but the deal is we’re (angry) about not winning this game. That says a lot about where our program’s at right now.”
The final minutes showed why Harvard is a program that has made four NCAA tournaments this decade and Dartmouth is still coming up. The Crimson converted when they had to while Dartmouth let chances slip away.
Junior forward Chris Knight missed a free throw that would have tied the game with 22 seconds left and junior guard Brendan Barry missed a three with 11 seconds left that would have tied the game.
The Big Green left points on the table on the inside. Dartmouth shot 39 percent from inside the three-point arc while Harvard shot 47 percent. Additionally, the Crimson won the rebounding battle 40-33.
“I’m not worried about the missed shots at the end because we put ourselves in position to make those plays,” McLaughlin said. “We got good shots up, for the most part, and theirs fell and a couple of ours didn’t.”
The game went back and forth throughout as neither team led by more than seven.
Knight and Barry led the charge for the Big Green with 12 points each. Knight also had a team-high eight rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes of action. Barry, the top 3-point shooter in the country, made 4-of-9 from beyond the arc.
Freshman guard Taurus Samuels had a career-high 13 points for the Big Green in 20 minutes of action off the bench.
“When guys get into foul trouble like we did you can have guys Taurus, Will Emery, Wes Slajchert really step up like they did,” McLaughlin said.
The Crimson controlled the interior thanks to 16 points and eight rebounds from junior Chris Lewis while junior Christian Juzang had a game-high 19 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Bryce Aiken had 14 points including four in the final 10 seconds to seal the victory for Harvard.
Additionally, the Big Green had to contend with Justin Bassey. The junior didn’t score a point but pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds and played manic defense in 34 minutes of action.
“He’s a very good player,” McLaughlin said of Bassey. “He’s a multi-positional player. It’s very rare a player can affect a game (without scoring). That’s a sign of an excellent player.”
Up next is a key four-game homestand over the next two weekends for the Big Green. Yale, Brown, Cornell, and Columbia come to Leede Arena in a stretch that could define Dartmouth’s season.
“I just told them that the most important thing is that we have to have a good practice on Monday,” McLaughlin said. “Nothing else matters. I’m glad you guys are (angry). But we have to have a really good practice and a really good week this week.”