HANOVER, N.H. - Senior guard Margaret Smith hit two free throws with 5.1 seconds to play to push the Dartmouth women's basketball team past Ivy rival Harvard, 45-44 in the Ivy opener.
The game was an instant classic between the Ivy League's two most storied programs and fiercest rivals in front of a boisterous 1,517 fans at Leede Arena, as Dartmouth opened its Ivy League title defense with a victory over the Crimson.
Sasha Dosenko (Kiev, Ukraine) had a huge game for Dartmouth with 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. She was joined in double figures by freshman Faziah Steen, who tallied 11 points, three steals and three assists in her first career Ivy game. Brittney Smith (Fort Worth, Texas) tallied 12 rebounds, six points, three assists and three blocks.
Dartmouth won a key battle on the glass, outrebounding Harvard, 42-32. Perhaps the most telling stat, however, was that the Big Green held the Crimson to just 44 points, nearly 30 below their season average of 73.
Dartmouth (5-9, 1-0 Ivy), which had led by as many as seven points late in the game, had seen its lead evaporate to a 44-43 Harvard (9-5, 0-1) advantage with 19 seconds to play. The Big Green had the ball with the chance to win the game when Dosenko was called for an offensive foul with nine seconds to play.
Dartmouth fouled Harvard quickly after its first inbound attempt, but had that was just the sixth foul of the half. Margaret Smith, who battled on defense all night made the play of the game on the next try when she picked off a Harvard inbound and was fouled hard, crashing to the deck at the top of the key.
Smith coolly stepped the free-throw line and made both attempts in a one-and-one situation to put the Big Green ahead, 45-44 with 5.1 seconds to play. The Crimson could not get a good look at the basket and chucked a shot up, but time expired and Dartmouth got the win.
It was an absolute battle from the opening tip after each squad started the game with a three-pointer, Christine Matera for Harvard and Steen for Dartmouth. The Big Green held a 7-5 advantage at 15:44 and would hold just an 11-9 lead by 11:02, after a jumper by Brittney Smith and a layup by Harvard's Emma Markley.
Senior Michelle Meyer (Covington, Ohio) hit a big three to break a tie at 10:07, putting the Big Green up 14-11. The Dartmouth lead held until a Matera three tied it at 16-16 at 4:46, but Steen quickly put the Big Green back on top, 18-16.
Dartmouth outscored Harvard, 7-2 in the last four minutes of the half including four points from Brittney Smith and a big block on Harvard's last shot of the half.
The Big Green opened the second half with four quick points from Dosenko and Steen to go up, 29-18 at 18:36, its largest lead of the game. The crimson sliced that with five-straight including a Jackie Alemany triple at 17:05 to make it 29-23.
The teams traded buckets and Dartmouth saw its lead evaporate to just one point after a three-point play by Markley and a triple by sophomore Brogan Berry to make it 37-37, Dartmouth at 11:11. Harvard had a chance to take a lead on a fast break but Brittney Smith somehow made a fingertip block to keep the Crimson from going ahead.
That play sparked the Big Green to go on a modest 6-0 run including two points each from Betsy Williams (Norwich, Vt.) and Meyer, but Dartmouth kept Harvard from scoring for seven minutes to go up 43-36 at 4:35. Matera finally broke the drought with a three at 4:09, starting an 8-0 Harvard run that eventually put the Crimson up, 44-43 after a drive by Alemany with 50 seconds to play.
Brittney Smith was called for a questionable travel on the next Dartmouth possession, but the Big Green got it right back after Alemany walked with 19 seconds to play, setting up the dramatic finale.
The Big Green has won the Ivy opener over Harvard for the last three seasons, and won four-straight over the Crimson, trailing just 35-31 in the all-time series. Head coach Chris Wielgus is now 21-20 against fellow Ivy coaching veteran Kathy Delaney-Smith.
Dartmouth hosts instate rival New Hampshire this Tuesday night at 7 p.m. before returning to Ivy play against Cornell and Columbia on Jan. 29-30.