After watching Yale's upset of Harvard last season, life (coaching duties) kept me away from this year's game at Lee Amphitheater, as the Crimson embarrassed the Bulldogs, 65-35.
But, while it's OK in most conferences to have a bit of a hangover after a tough loss, in the Ivy League, there's no such luxury.
First, the Ivy - to keep kids actually in class, a novel concept - generally plays its league games on back-to-back nights, Friday and Saturday. Second, without a conference tournament, you have to win the regular season to get an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, somewhere Yale hasn't been since 1962.
So, with their ears still ringing, Yale was back to the scene of the crime 24 hours later, with their flickering hopes of ending the four-decade NCAA drought now dependent on them beating Dartmouth.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they probably couldn't have hand-picked a better opponent than the Big Green, who came in at 4-15 and had lost 28 of their last 30 league games.
But as far as omens go, the shot clock buzzer sticking open as the teams lined up for the national anthem probably wasn't the best.
Yale and coach James Jones said all the right things after the Harvard debacle, but talk is cheap, and overcoming natural tendencies can be nearly impossible, as all coaches inherently know.
The crowd was decent, but there was little atmosphere Saturday, and Yale stuttered out of the gate. Almost predictably, the struggling Big Green started to gain in confidence, and when Kirk Crecco hit a 3-pointer midway through the first half, Dartmouth had a 23-15 lead.
Even in the Ivy League, basketball can be a simple game, and motivating athletes can also be pretty straightforward. Jones called time and lit into his team loudly enough for everyone in the acoustic-friendly building to hear, and the Bulldogs responded with 14 straight points and took a 33-26 lead into the locker room.
Of course, though, the 15 minutes in the locker room allowed the adrenaline to subside and the fatigue/sluggishness to come rushing back, and - to their credit - Dartmouth was the better team for the first few minutes of the second half. Senior David Rufful's jumper gave the Big Green a lead, and when fellow senior Jabari Trotter followed with a three-pointer, the visitors had a 39-35 advantage with 13 minutes left.
This time it wasn't words, but actions that got Yale out of its slumber. Senior captain (and Yale only names one) Reggie Willhite decided that Yale's Ivy League hopes weren't going to die like this. He was the most athletic player on the court, but had been held to three points when his steal and layup tied things at 39. Trotter hit another three to put Dartmouth up 44-41, but Willhite scored nine straight points to give Yale a 50-46 lead.
As so often happens with teams that are struggling, the Big Green (under second-year coach Paul Cormier, who is actually in his second stint in Hanover, N.H.) couldn't get a shot to fall down the stretch and eventually Yale pulled away for a 62-52 win to move to 3-1 in the Ivy League.
They'll likely have to win out (including at Harvard) to do it, but a longshot is better than no shot at all.
And as the buzzer stuck once again at the final horn, the Yale team made their way to the locker room with their hands over their collective ears.
Luckily, with Ivy scheduling the way it is, the headache should have time go away by the time they return to action next weekend against Penn and Princeton.
at YALE 62, DARTMOUTH 52 01/28/2012
DARTMOUTH 4-16 (0-4) -- C. Wroblewski 5-8 5-6 19; T. Melville 6-12 1-1 14; G. Maldunas 1-8 0-0 2; J. Golden 4-8 1-1 9; R. Griffin 0-7 1-2 1; D. Rufful 3-6 0-1 6; J. Brooks 1-5 1-2 3; J. Trotter 3-4 0-0 8; M. LaBove 2-5 2-2 6; K. Crecco 1-3 0-0 3; M. McKearney 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-60 6-9 52. YALE 13-5 (3-1) -- A. Morgan 2-5 5-6 10; R. Willhite 5-10 6-8 16; J. Kreisberg 3-6 2-6 8; G. Mangano 2-11 3-4 8; M. Grace 2-3 0-0 6; M. Townsend 1-2 0-0 2; B. Sherrod 3-4 0-0 6; J. Pritchard 0-0 0-0 0; S. Martin 1-3 0-0 3; I. Salafia 1-1 0-0 3; J. Duren 0-0 0-0 0; R. Anderson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-45 16-24 62.
Three-point goals: DART 4-16 (K. Crecco 1-2; J. Trotter 2-2; D. Rufful 0-1; R. Griffin 0-4; T. Melville 1-3; J. Golden 0-1; M. McKearney 0-2; G. Maldunas 0-1), YALE 6-13 (G. Mangano 1-4; R. Willhite 0-1; M. Grace 2-3; S. Martin 1-2; A. Morgan 1-2; I. Salafia 1-1); Rebounds: DART 31 (J. Brooks 8), YALE 33 (G. Mangano 10); Assists: DART 11 (J. Brooks 4), YALE 11 (R. Willhite 3); Total Fouls -- DART 23, YALE 16; Fouled Out: DART-None; YALE-None.