"This is terribly frustrating," said Captain Nancy Boutilier. "I think we could have won but it just keeps slipping away."
The Harvard women's basketball team fought hard last night at Briggs Athletic Center. In one 15-minute stretch Boutilier added about 30 percent to her career total scoring. Freshman Gia Barressi shined both as a gutsy defender and as a guard with the spunk to drive successfully for the net.
UMass dumped the hoopsters, 74-57, marking the sixth loss in a winless Crimson season.
The Crimson came on the court psyched and scrappy and early on showed good ball control and intelligent passing. But so did the Minutemen, who added consistent outside shooting to their potent mix.
The hoopsters warmed up quickly, though, when Boutilier got the home team going with a swish on a 20-footer 10 minutes into the game. Captain Val Jordan and Anna Collins added to Crimson momentum with a number of brilliant collaborations under the boards.
The problem was, UMass matched everything the Crimson dished out, making the first half a duel in which the Minutemen never led by more than two, until a lay-up at the buzzer put them up by four.
But Harvard got sloppy and lost its energy in the second half, racking up personal fouls and failing to curb the turnovers that plagued it in the first half. The Crimson defense often stymied the Minutemen to the last seconds of the shot clock, only to draw a personal foul and hand the ball right back.
And it was those fouls that finally cost the Crimson the game. UMass picked up 24 points on free throws, while Harvard made only nine. From the floor, though, Harvard matched the Minutemen's 50 points with a very respectable 48.
Joseph Notches 12
In the midst of the fouling carnage the Crimson showed tell-tale signs of improvement. Junior Wendy Joseph had her best game yet, leading the team with 12 points Freshman guard Erin Sugrue continued to impress with her team-leading eight rebound and managed to sink three baskets and three free throws along the way.
And the Crimson continued to play the intense man-to-man defense throughout its game.
Riddled by Erratic Play
But Harvard's inconsistency keeps under mining its intensity. More than half the players are freshmen, and Coach Kathleen Delaney Smith is forced to spread out the few experienced players among the line-up.
"Our offensive tentative," Smith said, "because a lot of the time I'm playing three freshmen and two sophomores. It's harder to know when to shoot than to be tough on defense."
THE NOTEBOOK: The Crimson heads south this weekend for the Providence Tourney. It's first-round game will be a rematch with Holy Cross, which beat Harvard, 95-48 on Saturday.