The Harvard women’s basketball team couldn’t have been happier to see the friendly rims of Lavietes Pavilion while sharpshooting its way to a 91-74 win over crosstown rival Boston University yesterday.
Co-captain Hana Peljto moved into second place on Harvard’s all-time scoring list when a first-half layup pushed her past Tammy Butler ’95 and her 1,605 points. With Peljto’s 25-point performance yesterday, the forward now has 1,626 career points, behind only the 2,312 of Allison Feaster ’98.
Defending America East champion BU (2-4) stayed close to the Crimson (4-3) throughout the first half, allowing Harvard no more than a 10-point lead and closing the gap to five, 37-32, by halftime.
But junior center Reka Cserny would not let the Terriers creep any closer, as she exploded for 22 of her 24 points in the second frame and twice scored eight Crimson points in a row.
BU and Harvard exchanged baskets through the first five minutes of the second half, but with 15:55 remaining in the game, co-captain Tricia Tubridy grabbed the momentum for good. Tubridy stole the ball from Terrier guard Katie Terhune under the BU basket and immediately converted a layup, extending Harvard’s lead to eight at 48-40. The Crimson pushed its advantage to as many as 22 points on two occasions, both on Cserny tallies with less than five minutes to go.
Harvard shot 70.4 percent from the floor during the second half and 62.3 percent for the game, a far cry from its shooting trouble against the Northeastern Huskies on Thursday, when the Crimson hit at only a 39.3 percent clip. The difference?
“Home! Home!” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said.
Harvard was supposed to play its home opener last Saturday against Lafayette, but the nor’easter stalled the Leopards before they even got to Lavietes, leaving the Crimson game-less for over a week until its disappointing 63-59 loss on the Huskies’ Solomon Court.
“I don’t remember a start like this, as tough a non-conference start, and not being home,” Delaney-Smith said. “We just love our rims. They’re soft. We love them.”
Harvard boasted four double-digit scorers, as senior point guard Bev Moore registered 10 points and sophomore guard Laura Robinson notched a career-high 14. Moore and Peljto both went 3-of-4 from behind the arc, leading the team to 55-percent three-point shooting.
“We are a really talented shooting team,” Delaney-Smith said. “We should have performances like this often. I’m not surprised by this performance, believe it or not—we’re that good.”
The Crimson never trailed, taking the lead for good on Moore’s three from the left side to open the scoring just 10 seconds into the game. But Harvard could not put the game out of BU’s reach because of turnovers and a lack of early production from two of the Crimson’s top scorers, Cserny and Tubridy.
Harvard turned the ball over 14 times in the first half, and the Terriers capitalized on the mistakes. By game’s end, BU had scored 34 points on 22 Crimson turnovers.
“It was a combination of both their strong defense and our inability for a while to take care of the ball,” Peljto said. “It’s something we’ve been working on and we still have to improve on.”
The Crimson used halftime to regroup, with Cserny adjusting after scoring only two points in the first frame, in which she was limited to 10 minutes on the floor after picking up two early fouls.
“[Cserny is] just a really smart player so she’s going to know what adjustments to make,” Delaney-Smith said. “What happens to Reka is people push her and body her—that’s how people are playing her to take her out of her game.”
Cserny responded in the second with a monster 22-point performance and finished the contest with a game-high eight rebounds.
Harvard also adapted its defense around players such as BU forward Larissa Parr, who stands 6’0 and plays even bigger.
“[Parr] was really strong, so we were trying to get around her instead of pushing her out of the paint because we couldn’t really do that,” Cserny said. “So I guess we just adjusted well there. At halftime, Kathy told us to move our feet more on defense, and I think that disturbed her because she didn’t have the height to shoot over us.”
The Crimson coupled its outstanding accuracy from the floor with aggressive defense. Harvard tallied 11 steals, including five from Peljto. Peljto was also a constant double-team threat, as many a BU player found herself stuck in a corner with Peljto’s arms blocking the options on one side.
“[Peljto’s] in the locker room saying, ‘This is the best defensive game I’ve ever had,’ and it is,” Delaney-Smith said. “We thought we could step up and put pressure on the ball. We have the athleticism. In years past, we haven’t been as quick in some positions, but I think we have everything. We have quickness, we have height, we have depth—we have everything in order to do that.”
While Harvard is not scheduled to play until Saturday at Rhode Island, it may make up its contest against Lafayette on Wednesday. After battling the Rams this weekend, the Crimson takes on Providence next Monday and will then have a four-day break before facing the last of its scheduled ranked opponents, No. 25 Rutgers on Dec. 30 at Lavietes.
—Staff writer Jessica T. Lee can be reached at email@example.com.