W. Basketball’s Defense Crushes Yale

By SEAN W. COUGHLIN

CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

It was business as usual Saturday evening as junior forward Hana Peljto and sophomore center Reka Cserny led the Harvard women’s basketball team (14-4, 6-0 Ivy) to a decisive 79- 54 victory over Yale (4-15, 1-6 Ivy) at Lavietes Pavilion.

Peljto and Cserny each tallied 19 points and seven boards, carrying the Crimson’s offensive load throughout the contest.

“They’re always huge for us,” said Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith. “Hana and Reka, its always the same old story with the two of them.”

Peljto was especially prolific in the first half, leading all scorers with 11 points, but her initial contribution was on defense as she swiped three steals in the first four minutes.

Despite Peljto’s early defensive dominance, the Elis kept it close throughout the first frame. With 8:55 to go until halftime, Yale pulled within a bucket of the Crimson, trailing 22-20.

“We weren’t getting out to their shooters in the first half,” Delaney-Smith said. “Fadaways, three-pointers, we can live with those, but their shooters had too many good looks.”

But after the Elis closed within two, junior guard Dirkje Dunham led the Crimson on a 12-4 run. Dunham made her mark at both ends of the court, scoring eight points, all in the first half, and playing stifling defense.

“Dirkje was our defensive inspiration tonight,” Delaney-Smith said.

Also shining on defense was sophomore guard Rochelle Bell. Bell guarded formidable Yale point guard Tory Mauseth for most of the evening, holding Mauseth to 4-for-13 shooting.

“Rochelle Belle really stifled [Mauseth] tonight, especially in the second half,” Delaney-Smith said.

Harvard’s second-half defense showed visible improvement as it befuddled the Yale offensive scheme, possession after possession. The Elis shot a miserable 24 percent from the field in the second frame, as the Crimson tightened its defensive coils.

“Coming into the second half our entire focus was defense,” Cserny said. “We really wanted to challenge their shots more.” 

After a first half that saw Harvard shoot over 65 percent from the field, Cserny carried the Crimson offense as it plodded a bit in the second frame. Cserny scored 13 of her 19 points in the second period on 60 percent shooting, despite nursing an injured elbow.

“It was bothering me in the first half, but I grew accustomed to it later in the game,” Cserny said.

Along with Cserny, junior forward Tricia Tubridy was a second-frame force. One night after her monumental triple-double, Tubridy followed it with a solid encore performance, scoring 12 points and pulling down five boards.

With 2:11 remaining in regulation, Tubridy nailed a three-pointer that put Harvard ahead by 22 and eradicated any hopes of a miracle comeback from the Bulldogs.

“Tricia had a phenomenal weekend,” Delaney-Smith said. “She’s really came out and played great ball.”

The victory marks the Crimson’s eighth straight win overall and keeps Harvard perfect in the Ivy League.      

“We’re really enjoying the winning streak, but we treat every game like it’s a championship game,” Cserny said.

—Staff writer Sean W. Coughlin can be reached at coughl@fas.harvard.edu.