HANOVER, N.H. — Sophomore David Rufful converted a three-point play with 0.9 seconds remaining to lift host Dartmouth to a thrilling 65-64 victory over St. Francis (7-10) on Monday evening at Leede Arena. Rufful finished the game with 16 points, complementing the career-high 21 poured in by senior Robby Pride to send the Big Green (4-11) to the win. Ricky Cadell had a game-high 23 points, 15 in the second half, for the Terriers (7-10).
Rufful’s finger roll and free throw gave interim head coach Mark Graupe his first Division I triumph. Graupe, who was officially named interim head coach last Thursday, had guided the Big Green at Harvard n a 76-47 loss on Jan. 9, one day after the resignation of Terry Dunn. Now with the interim title, the Dartmouth squad gave Graupe his first win by shooting 53.7 percent (22-of-41) for the game, just the fourth time the Green topped even 40 percent this season.
“This team has been through a lot this season, but the guys keep on fighting,” Graupe said after the game. “We had the lead at the half and lost it, but even down in the final seconds, they simply kept persevering and found a way to get that win.”
Dartmouth trailed by as many as six with 2:18 to play and was still down four with just 15 ticks left on the clock. Pride got free from the left wing and drained a three to make it a one-point game at 63-62, then fouled with 8.1 seconds to stop the clock. Unfortunately for the Big Green, it was the fifth foul on Pride, who was 6-of-7 from the floor — hitting all three of his three-pointers — and a perfect 6-of-6 at the line.
Kayode Ayeni, who tallied 15 points on the night, hit the first foul shot but misfired on the second. Rufful snared the rebound, dished off to Jabari Trotter who brought the ball quickly up the floor. Rufful got the ball back near the top of the key and drove the lane, getting to the rim and sinking the layup while getting fouled with 0.9 seconds to go. His free throw gave Dartmouth its first lead in over 10 minutes, and St. Francis failed to get a shot off before the buzzer.
The Big Green came out on fire to start the game, hitting 9-of-11 from the floor to take a 14-point lead at 21-7 with just nine minutes gone. But St. Francis strung together nine straight points — six by seldom-used Richard Clark — to get back into the game. The lead wavered between five and nine points for most of the rest of the half before Rufful canned a long three-pointer as time expired in the half to make the score 36-27 at the intermission.
The 36 points at the break were the most for the Big Green against a Division I opponent this season as they shot a sizzling 62.5 percent (15-of-24). St. Francis, meanwhile, was having difficulty finding the range, going 8-of-26 (.308) from the floor.
The Terriers shooting troubles disappeared in the second stanza, shooting a blistering 76.5 percent (13-of-17) while converting 10-of-12 (.833) at the charity stripe. St. Francis began the half on a 14-3 run, capped by an Ayeni layup, to give the Terriers their first lead of the game at 41-39.
When Akeem Bennett sank a jumper to boost the lead to four at 45-41, Pride was fouled while attempting a three-pointer and sank all three free throws, then drained his second triple of the night to put the Green back on top by two with 12:06 to go.
Turnovers plagued the Big Green (they finished the game with a season-high 22) as they scored just two points over the next 8:52 and did not knock down a field goal again until Rufful hit a jumper in the lane with 2:46 remaining in the game. St. Francis came right back with a layup by Akeem Johnson, who was fouled, to take that six-point lead at 59-53 with 2:18 left. But Johnson failed to make it a seven-point contest when he missed the free throw, leaving the door cracked for Dartmouth.
Pride sank a 16-footer, then Bennett was whistled for a charge at the other end. Bennett fouled out trying to contain Rufful, who sliced the net with both foul shots to bring the Big Green within two at 59-57.
After Ayeni drained two free throws with 32 seconds to go, Pride hit two foul shots of his own. Dartmouth tried to deny on a sideline inbounds pass after a Terrier timeout, but St. Francis ran a perfect home run play to Stefan Perunicic who laid it in with 15 ticks. That simply set up the end game heroics by Pride and Rufful.
Besides hitting 53.7 percent from the floor, Dartmouth also drained 5-of-9 (.556) from long range and 16-of-21 (.762) at the free throw line. St. Francis was just shy of 50 percent on its field goals (21-of-43) while hitting 4-of-10 of its three-pointers. And its 66.7 percent showing (18-of-27) was higher than its season average.
Dartmouth will try to avenge its loss at Harvard back on Jan. 9 when it hosts the Crimson (12-3, 1-0 Ivy) on Saturday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. St. Francis returns home on Thursday after a successful 3-1 road trip with an NEC showdown with Mount St. Mary’s at 7 p.m.