Despite holding a five-point halftime lead and going up by as many as 15, the Harvard women’s basketball team dropped its season opener to No. 16 Colorado 85-81 Saturday afternoon. Yesterday, the Crimson bounced back to beat Southern 73-63 in the consolation game of the Subway Classic in Minneapolis, Minn.
Colorado 85, Harvard 81
Playing with the confidence that is required of the top collegiate teams, Harvard came out charging against the Buffs, only to drop the contest in the waning moments.
With 90 seconds left on the clock, senior forward Randie Wirt hit a 12-foot jumper to put the Buffs ahead 83-81.
Harvard got the ball back with the chance to tie or take the lead, but was unable to score.
“If we didn’t turn it over and [instead] made a three, we would have won the game,” junior center Reka Cserny said.
After the Buffs knotted the game at 58 with 11:31 remaining in the game, a pair of Kate Fagan free throws granted Colorado its first lead since the fourth minute of the game.
The Buffs did not stop there, but ran up their lead to 71-62 before co-captain Hana Peljto and Cserny helped Harvard tie the game again at 78.
Trading free throws, the Crimson and Buffaloes again found themselves tied, 81-81.
Harvard jumped out early, forging a 15-13 lead behind seven quick points by Cserny and six from senior point guard Bev Moore.
“They played a high-pressure defense and we were pretty composed on offense,” sophomore guard Jess Holsey said.
Crimson fans that came out from the nearby hometown of Peljto and junior guard Rochelle Bell were treated to a 22-point, six-rebound performance from Peljto and solid play from Bell.
Peljto scored her first basket on a layup off a nifty back-door dish from co-captain forward Tricia Tubridy.
Capitalizing on tough team defense and sharp shooting, Harvard amassed a 15-point lead midway through the first half.
The Buffaloes were not about to succumb to the underdog without a fight, though, and cut the Crimson lead to three shortly before halftime.
However, Bell scored on a buzzer-beating coast-to-coast layup to give Harvard a 48-43 lead at the intermission.
Colorado’s senior center Tera Bjorklund—a preseason contender for many player of the year awards—kept the Buffs close with 20 first-half points. She would finish with 33 points, shooting 12-for-14 from the floor and nine-for-nine from the line.
“We definitely couldn’t stop her one-on-one, so we played some zone,” Cserny said.
Cserny led the Crimson with 26 points and added eight steals and two blocks. Moore tossed in 11 points with a trio of treys and Tubridy snatched seven boards and gave out six assists.
“[This game] is what we have been practicing for,” Cserny said. “It was a team effort, what we did this weekend.”
Harvard 73, Southern 63
Peljto registered her 1,500 point and the Crimson overcame a sloppy first half to beat the Jaguars (0-2) in the consolation game of the Subway Classic.
Carelessness with the basketball and poor shooting doomed the Crimson to a 33-30 halftime deficit.
“We changed the way we played in the second half,” Cserny said. “We had to step up on defense and run the floor.”
Defensive intensity quickly translated into offensive opportunity for Harvard, as Moore hit a three-pointer and Cserny recorded a three-point play to give the Crimson a 36-35 lead.
The Crimson improved upon their 10-for-30 first-half effort from the floor, including zero-for-eight behind the arc, and was able to hit 15 of 29 shots from the field during the second period.
Two minutes and 15 seconds into the second half, Peljto knocked down a fade-away jumper along the baseline to reach the milestone point total and move into third place on the Crimson all-time career point leaders list.
Peljto repeated Saturday’s production with 22 points and six boards.
Harvard pushed its lead to 10 on a three-ball from the corner by junior guard Katie Murphy and a driving bucket by sophomore Laura Robinson inflated the margin to 12.
Staying solid behind the charity stripe, the Crimson staved off late runs by Southern to win 73-63.
Turning in another impressive performance, Cserny put up 27 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, notching her fifth career double-double.
The Crimson will square off against Liberty this Saturday at 6 p.m. in the first round of the Seminole Classic in Tallahassee, Fla.