The last time Dartmouth beat a BCS program was Dec. 19, 1989, when the Big Green (under head coach Paul Cormier) topped Texas A&M, 64-51. Technically, the Aggies weren’t even a BCS program then, because, well, the BCS didn’t yet exist. Nor did the Big 12 for that matter. Texas A&M was a member of the now defunct Southwest Conference. So you might be forgiven if you thought Dartmouth had no shot against Rutgers in its season opener.
Of course, the Big Green’s losing streak against high-majors is still intact after a narrow 62-56 defeat to the Scarlet Knights, but Dartmouth’s performance did manage to raise eyebrows across the Ivy League. Given the lack of marquee matchups, you might even say that the Big Green had the most impressive result of the season’s opening weekend.
But while the six-point loss is certainly a positive start for Cormier and Co., the outcome has a few caveats. Rutgers freshmen combined for 120 minutes of court time; the Scarlet Knights never actually trailed; Dartmouth posted an effective field goal percentage of 40.4; the Big Green was outrebounded 31-21. These latter two problems were all-too-familiar for Dartmouth. It’s inability to score—the greatest issue from a year ago—was obvious in the first eight minutes of the second half when the Big Green could only manage a pair of free throws, as a one-point game turned into a nine-point deficit.
Dartmouth managed to stay competitive because it limited its turnovers and it played decent defense (forcing 16 turnovers while allowing an effective field goal percentage of 50). I suppose that alone is worth celebrating. It enabled the Big Green to hang around and even come within one possession in crunch time after an R.J. Griffin three made the score 59-56 with 1:12 remaining.
So the score line in New Jersey might raise the possibility that Dartmouth is better than we thought, but the box score suggests that they are who we thought they were. In either case, unless the Big Green finds a way to fill it from the field and/or control the glass, it might be many more years before they top a high-major program. Or it might be Dec. 10th in the Joyce Center against Notre Dame.