After jumping to an early 17-4 lead, the Lions (10-15, 3-9 Ivy) looked poised to spoil the night. But the Crimson (20-4, 12-0) fought back with a gutsy display of outside shooting.
Harvard 78, Columbia 74
Junior forward Tricia Tubridy hit a three with 1:34 left in the second-half to tie the game at 70, and a trey from junior point guard Bev Moore and five free throws gave Harvard the 78-74 victory. With the triumph, the Crimson set a school record with 14 consecutive wins.
“We had the weight of the world on our shoulders because we knew we were cutting the nets down tonight,” said Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith.
“If we had lost the ballgame we would have gone through the motions, but it wouldn’t have been fun.”
The Crimson struggled to find its feet early in the game, shooting just 18 percent during the first six and a half minutes and giving up easy looks to Columbia.
“My worst fears came true at the beginning of the game,” Delaney-Smith said. “There’s no way we should have won the game the way we played.”
Harvard faltered defensively and had trouble containing Lions guard Sue Altman, a transfer from Holy Cross who finished with 22 points and eight rebounds.
The Crimson managed to keep the game within reach by shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc for the game and 95.5 percent from the free-throw line in the second half. Sophomore center Reka Cserny was 12-for-12 from the charity stripe and finished with 17 points.
After trailing by as much as 13 points in the second half, Harvard reeled Columbia in over the final six minutes. Junior forward Hana Peljto hit a three-pointer with 3:55 remaining to make it a one possession game at 68-65. Tubridy’s three tied the game for the first time since the 13:11 mark of the first half, and Moore’s trifecta put the Crimson ahead for good with a minute to play.
“I feel pretty lucky that the three went in, because I didn’t know it would,” said Tubridy, who was celebrating her 21st birthday. “I knew Bev’s was good, though. She took the ball, looked right at the basket, thought for about a second, and then shot it. I just threw it up at the end of the shot clock.”
While the game was a little too close for comfort, it still made for a thrilling finish, especially as Harvard has rarely been challenged late in the game this Ivy season.
“Champions are made of what we did tonight,” Delaney-Smith said. “It really couldn’t have been any uglier.”
Harvard 61, Cornell 47
The Crimson could not prevent Cornell leading scorer Karen Force from accounting for all of the Big Red’s offense in the first 13:22 of Friday’s game. The problem for Cornell (9-16, 4-8) was that Harvard’s defense limited Force to just three points during that stretch.