The Harvard women’s basketball team goes on the road this weekend, seeking wins against Ancient Eight rivals Brown and Yale.
Tied with Princeton for second in the Ivies, the Crimson (11-5, 2-1 Ivy) rolls into this weekend’s match-ups after wins over Penn and Cornell. Harvard is first in the league in scoring offense, averaging 69.5 points per game.
“Our offense is so strong that I think it’s going to take care of itself,” said senior guard Jenn Monti. “It’s our defense that’s going to win or lose games.”
Sophomore forward Hana Peljto has played no small part in the Crimson’s success on the scoreboard, as she leads the Ivy with 21.2 points per game. Freshman Reka Cserny is averaging 15.5 points per game, good enough for fifth in the league, but an ankle injury may prevent her from playing this weekend.
“Obviously, with Reka out, we’re facing a big loss,” Peljto wrote in an e-mail. “But our team has responded well to injuries and adversity, and hopefully we’ll prove that again.”
In Harvard’s 80-67 win over Colgate on Tuesday, Monti tallied nine assists, breaking the all-time school assist record with 486.
“I think that the one thing I didn’t realize was such a challenge was learning how to play as a team,” Monti said. “This year I’ve realized that the level of communication that we have is so much better this year and that that was a missing piece. For me, that’s what we have to do to win.”
In addition to communication, the Crimson has been preparing for very physical games against the Elis and the Bears.
“A lot of the games that we’ve played in the preseason have been pretty physical and we’ve handled them fine,” Peljto said. “Hopefully, they prepared us well for the Ivy League games that can be very physical at times as well.”
As Harvard heads into the last stretch of the season, intensity in and focus on every game is a priority.
“We’ve had difficulties starting games strong and with defensive intensity,” Peljto said.
The Crimson’s sole league loss came at Princeton on Jan. 11, as the Tigers, predicted to finish last in the league, pulled out the 59-55 win over the preseason favorite.
“It comes up every single day that these are the teams we can’t take lightly,” Monti said. “It’s easy to get psyched for teams like Dartmouth and Penn, but these are the games that we could just drop if we’re not ready to play.”
The Bears (4-13, 1-3 Ivy) boast the Ivy Player of the Week in senior Rada Pavichevich, who scored a career-high 24 points in Brown’s 73-57 win over Yale last Saturday. She also added two steals and three assists for team-leading tallies of 34 steals and 43 assists. Pavichevich is averaging 16.3 points per game in Ivy games, while sophomore Nyema Mitchell is next on the Bears roster with 9.3 points per game in league play.
Brown captured its first Ivy win over the Elis after falling to Yale 79-60 just the weekend before. The Bears leaped to a 39-19 lead over the Elis by the half, bolstered by 42 percent field shooting.
Though Yale closed the gap in the second, Brown’s 22-for-29 free-throw shooting secured the win. The Bears were also aided by a strong defense that forced the Elis into 31 turnovers for the game.
Though the Elis do not top the Ivy favorites, memory forces the Crimson to not overlook Yale (9-8, 2-2 Ivy). Last season, Yale dealt the Crimson a painful overtime loss to the tune of 72-61.
The Elis have played much of the season without junior guard Maria Smear, who was Yale’s highest scorer and one of the most accurate three-point shooters in the nation last year, due to a stress fracture. But the Elis roster holds other threats to the Crimson.
Senior guard Helene Schutrumpf was named to the Ivy Honor Roll this week after scoring 14 points against Brown last weekend. Schutrumpf’s success on the court stings a bit more when one remembers that she scored 20 points against Harvard in last year’s loss. Schutrumpf has scored in double-digits in four straight games.
Captain Meg Simpson tallied eight rebounds in the loss against Brown, and needs just five more to enter Yale’s top ten.
The Crimson will tip-off against Brown at Pizzitola Center at 7 p.m. tonight and will travel to New Haven for the 6 p.m. game in Payne Whitney Gym tomorrow night.