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After falling victim to old habits in the early minutes, Penn rebounded and indicated that it may have a new trick up its sleeves: holding on to its lead against a tough opponent.

The Red and Blue held off Dartmouth, 58-51, on Friday night at the Palestra to mark their second-straight tight victory.

Sophomore guard Matt Howard’s career high 18 points and gutsy play from freshman guard Antonio Woods powered Penn (6-10, 1-1 Ivy) to its first Ancient Eight win of the season.

With less than 10 seconds remaining and the Red and Blue up by three, the ball ended up in Woods’ hands. And he didn’t hesitate, getting into the paint for the game-sealing bucket.

Penn’s offensive play was anything but decisive in the first half, however.

The Red and Blue got off to a sluggish start, committing a number of bad turnovers and looking disorganized in the first half. It took the Penn nearly five minutes to get on the board with a trey from Woods.

Fortunately for the Quakers, Dartmouth started even slower and never found a rhythm in the first half.

The Big Green shot an ice cold 25 percent in the first half as Penn held Dartmouth leading scorer, Alex Mitola, without a point in the first 20 minutes.

After committing a turnover on the first play of the game, Howard asserted himself and paced the Quakers with seven points in the early going.

“I just wanted to stay aggressive knowing that Tony was in foul trouble, knowing that my team needed a spurt,” Howard said.

The sophomore was also responsible for the most electrifying play of the first half: a forceful block in transition to protect Penn’s lead with the break approaching.

“When he’s aggressive and he’s active, we’re a much better team,” coach Jerome Allen said.

Thanks to Dartmouth's inability to get anything going on offense, Penn lead 20-16 at the break despite getting no points from junior guard Tony Hicks and committing 12 first half turnovers.

“In the first half we struggled offensively,” Allen said. “But we held them to 16 points, and they’re a pretty good offensive team.”

The second half started much better for the Quakers. Howard came out guns a-blazing after the break, following a three with a pretty floater on Penn’s first few possessions.

Hicks then began to find a rhythm, and with Woods shutting down Mitola on the defensive end, Penn held double-digit leads for significant stretches in the second half.

Dartmouth wasn’t going to go cold for the entire game, though. On the backs of Malik Gill (15 points) and Gabas Maldunas (14 points), the Big Green started to chip away at Penn’s lead with five minutes remaining.

The Palestra became tense when the Quakers’ lead shrank to just one possession with a minute left.  But Penn refused to let another Ivy win fall through its grasp.

“It wasn’t pretty, but we’re not pretty,” Allen said. “It’s a grind for 40 minutes. I thought for the most part that we battled defensively.”

The Quakers will look to defend their home court for the third straight game on Saturday night against Harvard.

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