For the Big Green (7-5), sophomore Connor Boehm led the way with 14 points and nine rebounds, while junior Gabas Maldunas added 12 points and six caroms.
While the Dartmouth defense held the Catamounts to a 37.8 percent shooting night (14-of-37) without a three-pointer, the tight defense also led to 29 fouls that allowed Vermont to convert 34-of-41 free throws (.829). In contrast, the Big Green went to the line just 12 times, knocking down 10 (.833).
The Catamount defense, meanwhile, smothered the Dartmouth shooters, containing the Big Green to a season-low 35.1 percent (20-of-57). This coming after a four-game winning streak during which Dartmouth made better than 57 percent of its field goals, not to mention topping 50 percent for the season.
The first half was mostly a back-and-forth affair with four lead changes and five ties in the first 13 minutes. A Boehm layup with just under eight minutes remaining in the opening stanza gave Dartmouth a 13-12 lead, but it would be its last lead of the night as the Catamounts scored the next seven points. Rugg sank four free throws and Candon Rusin followed with a three-point play.
Sophomore Brandon McDonnell ended the spurt with a jumper in the lane, but Vermont drained 9-of-10 foul shots in the final four-plus minutes to take a 30-22 lead into the locker room.
The free throw disparity was already apparent at the intermission with Vermont 16-of-19 at the charity stripe and Dartmouth just 6-of-8. But the Catamounts also held a decisive 23-13 edge on the boards against a Big Green squad that had outrebounded its opposition by more than 10 per game on the year.
In the second half, Dartmouth turned to Maldunas, who missed the final eight-plus minutes of the first half with two fouls. The first eight Big Green points came courtesy of the 6-9 Lithuanian, but Rugg countered with six and Voelkel four to extend the UVM lead to 10, 40-30. Three times over the next eight minutes, Vermont would enjoy an 11-point advantage, but never could pull away.
Dartmouth still trailed by 10, 48-38, with just over six minutes remaining when freshman Eli Harrison provided the first three-point basket of the game. Again Rugg kept the Green at bay, sinking 3-of-4 at the line.
The difference was still 10 points when Sandro Carissimo swished two foul shots for the Catamounts, but sophomore Tommy Carpenter came right back with a spinning left-handed scoop shot in the lane, and junior John Golden stole a pass and coasted in for a two-hand dunk, making it a five-point game at 53-47.
After Rusin made two more free throws, sophomore Malik Gill launched a long three that found the bottom of the net, bringing the Green with five, 55-50, with 1:24 to play. That would be as close as Dartmouth would get, however, as Vermont buried seven more free throws, making Golden’s 25-footer from the top of the key with 30 seconds to play a moot point.
The Catamounts finished the game with a 12-rebound edge on the boards, 39-27, to help offset their 15 turnovers. They attempted just four three-pointers on the night, but their shooting touch at the line more than made up for the lack of a trifecta. Rugg was 7-of-10 from the floor — producing half of Vermont’s field goals — and 10-of-12 at the line, while Voelkel was a perfect 8-of-8 on free throws.
Dartmouth came into the game averaging seven three-pointers a game at a 38.5 percent clip, but managed to make just 3-of-18 (.167).
The Big Green will conclude their four-game homestand on Tuesday, Jan. 7 when the Hartford Hawks (5-10) come to Hanover. Vermont travels to Yale for its final non-conference game of the season on Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m.
Notes: Vermont has won the last six meetings between the two schools and 14 of the last 15, but Dartmouth still holds a 57-41 advantage in the all-time series … the Big Green had not shot lower than 41 percent before this game … Paul Cormier was denied his 200th career win as a collegiate head coach between his two stints at Dartmouth and one at Fairfield in his first attempt to reach the milestone.