The Harvard women's basketball team got a little scared at Briggs Cage Saturday afternoon.
The Crimson was prepared to try just about anything to prevent a repeat of Thursday's 13-point upset loss to Hartford.
But sometimes its possible to try just a little too hard.
And Harvard--off and running from the opening tip-off--did just that in its 68-63 victory over Vermont.
The Crimson offense worked to create easy underneath shots, relying on an inside game rather than the traditionally strong perimeter shooters. But those give-me shots--almost half of which just didn't go in--came with a price. And it showed on the Harvard defensive end.
"We allowed them some transition momentum off of our full-court pressure," Harvard Coach Kathy Delaney Smith said. "We tried extra hard, and sometimes that backfires."
Fast breaks kept the Catamounts (2-3) in the contest, and the Crimson (6-1) running to keep up. A shallow Vermont bench had little effect, as the Catamounts were fresh for the entire 40 minutes.
But Harvard's big players provided the pressure needed to keep the Crimson on top.
Junior center Beth Chandler drew the day's toughest assignment--guarding center and Catamount leading-scorer Joann McKay. Chandler held McKay scoreless from the floor for the first 10 minutes.
"Beth was playing [McKay] one-on-one, but it was a concerted team effort not to let her get the ball," Delaney Smith said. "[McKay's] a tough inside player."
Chandler got some help from Sarah Duncan, who combined with the center to double-team McKay under the net. While Duncan didn't have her best shooting night, the junior forward cancelled out several easy Vermont shots with an amazing nine blocks. She also led the team in rebounding, grabbing 11 boards as Harvard outrebounded the Catamounts, 47-36.
"We did a better job on the boards," Delaney Smith said. "We had to think consciously about doing that."
The lead bounced back and forth for the first half, with a bucket by freshman Dina Hadrick in the closing minute sending Harvard into the locker room with a 35-34 advantage.
The first five minutes of the second half saw more of the same, until senior guard Mary Baldauf made a midcourt steal and dished the ball off to senior point guard Barb Keffer. Keffer, who led the Crimson with 16 points, took an easy layup to knot the score at 43-43.
Chandler followed with a drive up the middle a minute later, drawing the foul for a three-point play. Harvard took a 46-43 lead, and never trailed again.
"We were looking to get the ball inside," Delaney Smith said. "It was pretty obvious from the opening tap, once Beth got the ball, that she was going to have a good game."
Chandler netted 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds, as well as earning four assists.