But against Penn on Saturday, one 20-minute explosion was enough to give the Crimson a hard-fought road win in Philadelphia.
Harvard shot 71 percent from the field in the second half to overcome a seven-point halftime deficit and down the Quakers 77-65 at the Palestra.
After a poor-shooting first half, the Crimson (8-12, 4-3 Ivy) came out hot after the break and sustained an offensive tear that buried Penn within the opening minutes of the second frame.
“[That second half] definitely helps you swallow that kind of a first half,” freshman forward Katie Rollins said. “And it gives you confidence that you can shoot poorly and turn that right around. This game showed that even when we’re down, you have to play a full 40 minutes against us.”
Senior forward Shana Franklin, who has a history of clutch performances, led Harvard with 16 points—12 in the second half—in the win.
It was Penn that started the game hot, burying six of its first nine shots—including a four-point play by guard Monica Naltner—to take an early 17-9 lead. The Crimson, meanwhile, saw all of its ball movement and offensive execution come to little use as shot after shot in the first half rimmed out.
“They were shooting ridiculous percentages early in the first half,” Rollins said. “Everything was falling for them, and we were getting great looks but they just weren’t falling. At the half, [Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith] said that they just couldn’t hit any more shots and we couldn’t miss any more.”
Penn built a 21-11 lead on forward Jennifer Fleischer’s layup with 10:14 remaining to cap off a 16-6 Quakers run. After Fleischer’s steal resulted in a Joey Rhoads layup at 2:41 to push the Penn lead to 11, the Crimson put together its only sustained offensive run of the first half with an 8-4 finish to close the frame. Freshman guard Emily Tay scored four consecutive points and tallied two assists over the stretch, pulling Harvard to within seven at the break.
The first-half flurry, however, was but an augury of good things to come for the Crimson, whose good shot selection throughout the first half was left unrewarded by the unfriendly rims of the Palestra. But after the break, those holes in the defense stayed open, and Harvard’s shots finally began to fall.
“We weren’t necessarily worried about what we were doing in the first half,” sophomore guard Lindsay Hallion said. “Our shooting in the second half was almost making up for the good shots that didn’t fall in the first half.”
In the first three minutes of the second half, the Crimson sprinted out to an 11-0 run to claim its first lead of the game at 37-33.
Both Franklin and senior guard Laura Robinson buried three-pointers to spark the run, while Hallion turned two consecutive steals into a free throw and a layup.
“[Our coach] told us to send a message in the first five minutes of the second half that we weren’t going away,” Rollins said. “And before you knew it, we were ahead in the first five minutes.”
Spurred on by deadly accuracy from beyond the arc—the Crimson was 5-of-6 from three in the second half—Harvard steadily pulled away from the host Quakers in the game’s final 12 minutes. Franklin’s second three of the half and another layup on the ensuing possession gave the Crimson a 10-point cushion with 3:27 remaining.
Though Rhoads’ three-pointer with under two minutes remaining pulled Penn to within six, Franklin responded with a three-point play to put the game out of reach at 69-60.
—Staff writer Aidan E. Tait can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.