After struggling to an 0-3 start in the Ivy League, the Harvard women's basketball team finally showed signs of regaining last year's league championship form last weekend, sweeping Cornell and Columbia on the road.
Coming off its three consecutive league losses, the Crimson (7-9 overall, 2-3 Ivies), traveled to Ithaca, N.Y., Saturday to defeat the Big Red, 60-46, in Barton Hall, and then wrapped up the weekend with a 78-67 victory over the Lions Sunday in Levien Gym in New York.
"It was a must-win situation," Co-Captain Trisha Brown said. "We really needed a road sweep."
The Crimson opened the weekend by jumping out to an early 10-point lead over the Big Red, before extending its advantage to 20 points midway through the second half.
Junior point guard Barbarann Keffer led the cagers--who shot 45 percent from the floor--with 12 points, five steals, and four assists. Brown added 10 points in only 18 minutes of playing time.
The Big Red battled back on the boards, out-rebounding the Crimson, 52-42, but the hosts were unable to get their run-and-gun offense on track, shooting a miserable 29 percent from the field.
Harvard's strong offensive play continued the next night, as the cagers shot 50 percent from the floor in the first stanza on their way to a 45-26 lead at the half.
But trailing 66-47 with 7:47 remaining, Columbia ran off 11 straight points to pull within 66-58. The Lion defense prevented the Crimson from scoring a field goal the rest of the way, but Harvard made 12 successful trips to the free throw line in the final two-and-a-half minutes to seal the win.
The Crimson shot a season-high 89 percent from the line, led by Keffer's perfect eight-for-eight performance.
Harvard out-rebounded the Lions, 37-30, with junior Nancy Cibotti and sophomore Sarah Duncan grabbing seven boards apiece. Duncan also registered an amazing 11 blocks for the weekend.
"Sarah had an outstanding weekend," Harvard Coach Kathy Delaney Smith said. "She was devastating on the boards and her blocks were really clean."
As a result of a change in the Crimson's offensive style, Duncan--a forward and generally the high-post player--dominated not only defensively but offensively as well.
"We had been making maybe two quick passes and then taking 15-ft. shots--there was no offensive rhythm," Delaney Smith said. "We spent the last three weeks working on our inside game. We needed to take pressure off our perimeter shooters, and a more patient offense did that very effectively this weekend."
The changes resulted in a 28-point weekend for Duncan, including a career-high 20 points against Columbia.
"Sarah normally doesn't think like a shooter, but she's very effective with a quick pivot and a soft touch," Delaney Smith said. "Usually she looks to pass, but now she's starting to play like a shooter."
THE NOTEBOOK:Sophomore Nicole Anderson had a career-best 10 points against Columbia...With the 10 assists she had over the weekend, Keffer is now only six away from breaking the all-time Harvard assist record of 303...Columbia shot 54 percent to outscore Harvard, 41-33, in the second half...Harvard led the entire game in both of the weekend match-ups.