HANOVER, N.H. – The Dartmouth women’s basketball team snapped an eight-game losing streak and led almost wire-to-wire except for just 26 seconds in the final minute, as they defeated The University of Pennsylvania, 53-50 in front of a joyous and excited crowd at Leede Arena.
Senior Nicola Zimmer led the team through a tough defensive zone by Penn, as the Big Green scored 30 points in the paint. Although she didn’t finish in double figures or have more than three helpers, Zimmer toughed out a full 40-minute game with just one turnover. The floor general scored nine points and hit the game-winning bucket on a layup with 21 ticks remaining.
“Everyone on the floor was locked into each other tonight,” said Zimmer.
“It was a great team effort tonight and an incredible community connection. It shows what we are building here,” said head coach Belle Koclanes. “This win is a confidence builder for us.”
Dartmouth entered the game winless in the Ivy League, taking on a Penn squad that defeated Harvard on Friday evening, 60-53, to tighten the Ancient Eight race. The Big Green won the opening tip and raced out to a 12-3 lead off a layup by freshman Fanni Szabo at 14:26.
“We made it a point to be the aggressor at the beginning. I don’t think Penn expected to see me bring the ball up as the power forward and it made them adjust on the defense,” said sophomore Lakin Roland.
The Big Green continued to dominate inside the paint during the opening frame, as the trio of junior Abbey Schmitt and sophomores Daisy Jordan and Roland combined for 20 of the 26 points scored by the Big Green after 20 minutes. One of the main points of emphasis heading into the contest was to limit Penn’s access inside. Dartmouth contained the Quakers for over 16 minutes before Kara Bonenberger’s transition jumper with 3:43 remaining in the period found her way inside.
“I felt keyed in with the post tonight and they got it done,” said Zimmer.
“After all the conversations we have had as a team, we put together a full 40-minute game, we played team defense, and we played with passion,” said Koclanes.
The Big Green out shot Penn 43% to 22% on the floor at the break and were deadlocked in rebounds at 17. The Quakers were forced to shoot from the outside and made just 2-of-12 from long range but got to the line six times. The Dartmouth defense forced nine turnovers compared to just six by the Green.
Leading 26-17 at the break, Penn cut the Dartmouth advantage with a 7-3 spurt to make it a two-possession game after Alyssa Baron made both from the stripe. Dartmouth regained its double-digit lead scoring the next seven points with inside baskets by Roland and Schmitt and a trifecta by Szabo.
After the Dartmouth run, Penn was back on the attack and split the margin to a single point off a 13-2 run with 6:16 left. Baron scored eight of the 13 points during the 6:11 outburst.
Dartmouth found success at the free throw line late in the game, scoring the next four points from Jordan and Szabo at the line to regain a five-point edge, 42-37. Penn was not ready to concede defeat as they once again battled back to make it, 44-43, off a jumper by Sydney Stipanovich with 2:18 remaining.
The game took an edge of your seat twist late in the final minute as Penn’s Renee Busch drilled a three-pointer with: 57 seconds left, but Dartmouth still led 48-47. On the ensuing possession after a free throw was made by Zimmer, Penn sent the ball inside to Stipanovich who was fouled and made her first free throw, but missed the second which allowed an offensive putback by Katy Allen to give Penn its first lead 50-49.
The lead lasted just 26 seconds, and it was Zimmer who drove the middle of the lane to complete the upset for the Big Green. Penn had a chances to tie but turned the ball over and on the inbounds play, Zimmer found Roland wide open for the insurance basket.
“Coming out of the timeout, I looked to the crowd for some extra energy. Looking at all the young girls in attendance helped us,” Zimmer explained.
With three seconds left, Penn inbounded the ball and called timeout to move the ball to half court. Baron received the pass and tried to pump fake Zimmer into fouling her on the release, but the ball was short ending the Big Green six-game skid against Penn.
The Big Green finished the game shooting 40 percent from the field with two outside baskets and nine free throws. The Quakers suffered their first defeat since St. Joseph’s on Jan. 17, shot 34 percent from the field and made four three-pointers and 12 free throws.
Roland and Szabo led the team with 12 points each. Jordan contributed eight points and six rebounds. Junior Milica Toskovic had one of her best defensive games of the season grabbing seven rebounds.
Baron finished with 12 points for the Quakers. Stipanovich was the only player to record a double-double scoring 11 points with 11 rebounds.
The win was Koclanes' first Ivy League victory and fourth overall.
Dartmouth will head to the Empire State for its final road trip of the season, as they will meet Columbia on Friday evening at 7 pm and Cornell on Saturday at 6 pm.