WALTHAM, Ma.--Employing a strong team effort, sparked by the red-hot shooting of captain Katherine Fulton, the Harvard women's basketball team trounced Southeastern Massachusetts University (SMU), 74-57, last night here at Bentley College in the opening round of the MAIAW tournament, the Massachusetts State basketball championship for women.
Fulton and Caryn Curry were the real standouts in last night's contest, as they provided the sparks that ignited the Crimson hoopsters and helped them catch fire in the second half.
Practicing her imitation of Dave DeBusschere, Fulton pumped in her 30-ft. High-arching swish time after time last night, tallying a game-high 23 points, 21 of them in the second half.
Teammate Curry did the boardwork, shutting out the taller SMU players, and sweeping in 22 rebounds to help Harvard close-down SMU's inside game.
Harvard started nervously, falling behind quickly by a score of 10-2 with just 4:30 gone. SMU opened the game with a 1-3-1 full-court zone press that flustered the Harvard offense. Using its height advantage, SMU dominated the boards and let their 6 ft. -1 in. center, Marilyn Caswell, clog the middle and reject the Harvard aerials.
But Crimson guard Bin Martineau hit three quick jumpers and got Harvard back on track, propelling the team to a two-point lead, 14-12, midway through the half.
The remainder of the first half was a see-saw battle, as the two teams traded baskets up and down the floor. Crimson guard Wendy Carle assumed the leadership role as she controlled both the offense and defense and helped Harvard break the SMU press.
The one factor that kept Harvard from running away with the game right from the start was their severe lack of offense. SMU's attack was a one-on-one type of stop-and-pop. With a distinct absence of patterned play, the blue and gold scoring came mainly from long bombs taken from the 20-30 ft. range.
Eileen O'Rourke and Mary McCarthy were the hot shots from the outside for SMU, and when they missed, which was not often in the first half, the big SMU forwards were there to grab the rebounds and put in the follow-ups.
In contrast, Harvard's offense was a total lack of both organization and good shooting. Ten times the women missed easy layups, and constantly their outside shots rolled around the rim and out, falling into the hands of the awesome SMU giants.
But Harvard was definitely the more talented team and they put that talent together to produce a powerful attack in the second half. The Crimson women quickly erased the 26-24 halftime deficit when Fulton took the opening tap and drove in for an easy layup. When Wendy Carle hit on a drive just seconds later, Harvard grabbed the lead, 28-26, and they never let go.
Switching out of a zone and into a man-to-man defense, Harvard pressed the SMU offense into numerous turnovers. The SMU outside shooting, so hot in the first half, fell to pieces in the second half as the blue and gold shooters spent most of their time watching their "airballs" fall into the arms of Harvard rebounders.
Beth Craig did a superb defense job fronting the SMU giant, Caswell, and reducing her effect on the game to almost nothing. By holding SMU to just one shot each time down the floor, instead of the three or four shots they got each time in the first half, Harvard broke the game wide open.
Two driving layups by Ellen Hart and the Fulton aerial spectacular destroyed SMU, and as the game's end drew near, the blue and gold players were ready to roll over and play dead, having fallen completely out of touch with the game's pace.
Carle finished the game with nine points, seven rebounds, and four assists, while teammate Curry added ten points and six assists to her 22-rebound performance.
After the game, Crimson coach Carole Kleinfelder said the real difference came when "we straightened out our offense in the second half. We did less dribbling," she said, "and executed better."
Jackie Proulx, the SMU coach, said, "We gave them trouble with our press in the first half but we didn't use it in the second half and that hurt us." She added, "They beat us on the boards in the second half," and that was the downfall of the SMU attack.
Harvard will meet Bentley College tomorrow at noon in the semi-final round.