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Senior captain Darien Nelson-Henry had a big game for Penn Basketball, posting 19 points in the win over Dartmouth on Friday night.

Credit: Ananya Chandra

It took awhile, but the Quakers are on the board in the 14-game tournament.

Penn defeated Dartmouth, 71-64, at the Palestra on Friday night to notch their first Ivy League win of the season.

The Big Green (7-12, 1-4 Ivy) got off to an 8-0 start as Penn (7-11, 1-3) struggled to protect the rim, but the Quakers went on a 22-6 run fueled by a swarming defense and hot shooting from beyond the arc after Penn coach Steve Donahue made a full substitution, putting five new guys on the floor just two minutes into the game.

"It's frustrating to see," Donahue said. "We're not at the point with our program that anyone should feel entitled to start out there and lay an egg. So I put in the first five guys I saw, to be honest with you, and sure enough, we got six straight stops."

Dartmouth answered with a run to get back even and the teams went back and forth for the rest of a first half that featured six lead changes. Dartmouth went into the locker room with a 31-27 advantage created almost entirely by senior Malik Gill, sophomore Taylor Johnson and freshman Evan Boudreaux who combined for 27 points (by the end of the night, Boudreaux had scored 27 on his own). The Red and Blue boasted a balanced scoring attack, with all but two Quakers who played making a dent in the scoring column (Matt Howard led the way with six points).

Penn struggled out of the gate once again in the second half, as Dartmouth went on two separate 7-2 runs in the first five minutes to go up 45-36. But the Red and Blue defense brought the Big Green machine to a screeching halt, as the visitors mustered just two points in a five-minute stretch following the first media timeout. 

A three from freshman Jake Silpe and a pair of three-point plays from senior Darien Nelson-Henry put momentum back on Penn's side, and a corner three from freshman Jackson Donahue brought the Quakers level at 50 with 9:30 remaining in the game.

The teams went back and forth for the next few minutes, but with the score tied at 59 and just over a minute remaining, a three-point play from Silpe gave the Red and Blue a lead they would never relinquish. Dartmouth missed a pair of game-tying three attempts, and the hosts hit their free throws to seal the win.

Nelson-Henry led the team with 19 points in his first game back from an ankle injury that cost him most of last weekend's action.

"We had real trouble in the second half defending their big kid," Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier admitted.

"The ankle feels fine, it just took me a little while to get back in motion," Nelson-Henry said. "Once I was there, my teammates did a really good job of setting me up."

One teammate in particular did a great job of setting up the big man: Silpe had eight assists to go with his 13 points and five steals.

"From the senior leadership with Darien, down to Jake as a freshman, I felt the guys really competed," Donahue said.

The Quakers shot 13-17 from the line after struggling in their previous game at Brown.

"I think we have good foul shooters, but I think foul shooting unfortunately comes down to experience and guys just having the poise to know that they can make it. I try to sprinkle in a little pressure situations for everybody throughout the practice," Donahue said. "I think we can win games from the foul line. I think we're that good. And that's what we did tonight, we stepped up and made it."

"I'm just really proud of our team, with our effort in the second half," Donahue added. "I thought Dartmouth really put us on the mat in the first half, playing really physical, really tough.

"I was disappointed in how we came out. But as disappointed as I was in the first half, I was extremely pleased that we have guys who can take a punch and don't back down, they came out and competed."

The Red and Blue will be back in action on Saturday night at 7 PM when they host defending Ivy champion Harvard.

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