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Senior guard Mandy McGurk makes a fast break to the basket during the earlier matchup against Dartmouth on Jan. 14. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Coming off a questionable weekend where Penn women’s basketball both punched its ticket to Ivy Madness but fell by nine points to a lowly Brown team the following night, the Quakers were in need of a bounce back. They found it in a 54-37 win over last-place Dartmouth, but the victory came not without flaws.

In its last road game of the regular season, Penn (17-9, 9-4 Ivy) extended the Big Green’s (2-25, 0-13) losing streak to a staggering 18 games with a decisive 17-point victory. Senior guard Kayla Padilla notched another 20-plus point performance with 23 points, moving her into seventh on Penn’s all-time scoring list with 1,297 career points. Despite another accolade achieved by Padilla, many turnovers and frequent scoring droughts made a victory over a team without a single conference win this season far from perfect.

"We handled the week in a reset. We had a great night Friday, we struggled a little bit on Saturday. We got back to practice just with one goal, to get a one game winning streak come out here today on the road," coach Mike McLaughlin said. 

The Quakers got off to a slow start, a far-too-frequent occurrence for the team over the past few weeks. Throughout the first half — which was littered with fouls and turnovers — neither team seemed to have a handle on the ball. Penn shot 22.2% from the field during the first quarter compared to Dartmouth’s 41.7% — both sides riddled with scoring droughts. Despite the Quakers holding the lead for most of the quarter, a layup at the buzzer gave the Big Green a one-point lead to end the quarter 12-11.

Senior guard Sydnei Caldwell quickly got the offense going with a jumper to start the second quarter, and junior forward Jordan Obi followed suit with a three. The ignited offense led to a 14-0 scoring run that held Dartmouth scoreless for nearly six minutes of play. Padilla hit a step-back shot at the buzzer to lead the team into halftime with a 29-14 lead. Obi and Padilla led the half with a combined 21 points.

"Dartmouth is a very competitive team. So we knew we were going to be in for a good game — just playing together and sharing the ball, getting our defense to translate into offense. I think that really shows how we just took off in a comfortable lead," Padilla said.

The momentum only grew for the Quakers in the second half as Padilla dominated from beyond the arc — scoring nine of the team’s 16 points in the third quarter off the deep shot. Caldwell and senior forward Silke Milliman combined for the other seven points. The Big Green's offense picked up in the third with 12 points of their own, but it was not enough to overcome the Quakers’ answers. 

"I think [Milliman] needs to definitely be noted," McLaughlin said. "Her play was very good today, and hopefully we can get her to carry it over as we go forward." 

It went downhill for the Big Green in the fourth quarter as the Quakers reached their highest lead of the game at 20 points with five minutes before the final buzzer. Junior forward Floor Toonders notched her only three points of the game during the fourth, but contributed to the Quaker defense throughout the game with a team-high 11 rebounds and six assists. A Padilla jumper with 26 seconds left provided the game's final points — setting the final score at 54-37.

The victory was not the cleanest for the Quakers. However, the team now sits in third place in Ancient Eight standings. Padilla and Obi were the only Quakers to score in double digits, combining for 34 of the team’s 54 points. The team overall went 19-52 in the field and 6-17 from deep, with five of those six long-range shots coming from Padilla. 

As they leave New Hampshire with their ninth conference victory of the season, the Quakers still have room to improve as the Ivy League Tournament rapidly approaches. Penn will return to the Palestra for the final regular-season matchup against Princeton on Friday, March 3 at 7:00 p.m., where Padilla will play her last home game in Red and Blue.

"It's very bittersweet, especially this season; the Palestra has treated us so well. We've had a really special energy, on that floor, we've been able to pull off some really big wins," Padilla said. "It's truly one of best possible atmospheres I've played in, and I'm just going to try to make the most of my last 40 minutes on that floor."