The Harvard women's basketball team wants to let Yale make its contribution to Ivy League basketball history. As victim number 12.
A win tonight would make the team 12-0 this year in Ivy League play and extend its record Ivy-game winning streak to 24. It would also clinch at least a share of a second-straight Ivy title. With the current streak, the Crimson is on the cusp of achieving something downright legendary, and no one on the team intends to let Yale stop it now.
Harvard (17-6, 11-0 Ivy) is just three games away from the first perfect run through the Ancient Eight by a women's basketball team in the league's history.
"Going undefeated was a goal all season for us," co-captain Jessica Gelman said. "From the outset, we wanted to do it and prove our dominance over the league."
"Early on in the season when things weren't going so well, it was easy to talk about going undefeated as an abstract sort of a thing," co-captain Kelly Black said. "Now that we're close to realizing our goal, we're ready."
Making new history is great, but Harvard has to repeat history before it can write new chapters in the annals of Ivy competition. Four weeks ago to the day, the women's hoopsters won at Yale 79-59 despite losing star forward Allison Feaster just one minute into the game with a sprained ankle. They need a repeat performance tonight.
Yale (10-14, 6-6 Ivy) isn't going to be a willing victim, however, and comes in riding a five-game winning streak. Sophomore center Katy Grubbs is the reigning Ivy League Player of the Week because of her 44 points and 11 rebounds in the past two games, and guard Autumn Braddock's 41.5 percent three-point shooting percentage leads the Ivies.
"It will be a tough game even though we beat them handily down there," Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. "I hope we don't take them too lightly. Grubbs might be the best post player in the conference, and Braddock is one of the best three-point shooters. Plus, they have nothing to lose."
Nevertheless, the Harvard players think they have the formula to stop Yale's two big guns and the rest of the Bulldogs with them. Actually, it has been the solution whenever the Crimson goes up against another Ivy team--aggressive defense.
"We've been working on collapsing on the post all week against Grubbs," Gelman said.
As for the outside threat of Braddock, "just don't give her open looks," sophomore guard Suzie Miller said. "Also, you have to box out since she's a great offensive rebounder and crashes the boards really hard."
But in a head-to-head comparison of personnel, Yale doesn't seem to stand a chance.
Feaster, a four-time Ivy Player of the Week this season, is dropping 21.3 points a game. She snags 10.5 rebounds a contest, good for tops in the league, and also leads the Ivies in steals.
Gelman has played outstanding basketball as well this season, scoring 12.8 a game and dishing out a league-high 6.9 assists in conference games. Her career-best 22 points last weekend was the key to the 70-60 win at Penn.
That 10-point win was a comparative nail-biter for the Crimson. Harvard isn't just beating its Ivy opponents, it is humiliating them. Thanks to last Friday's 79-34 squeaker at Princeton, the average margin of difference has ballooned to 21 a game.
Yale's best hope is to catch Harvard looking ahead to the big showdown Saturday night with Brown (15-9, 10-2 Ivy), but the Crimson seems too focused on perfection to let a win slip away.
"These next two games are the biggest of my life," Miller said. "We have so much momentum, and the possibility of making history really has us pumped. We want to crush these two teams."
As if Harvard needed any more inspiration, it is parents and seniors weekend. Maybe the best advice Yale coach Cecilia DeMarco can give her team is to get out of the way.
"They're good, but they can't stop us," said Black in reference to Yale.
If Harvard does what is expected, three games from now that statement will have applied to every team in the Ivy League. Twice.