With a balanced attack and a solid defensive effort, the Harvard women’s basketball team overcame a lackluster start to defeat Penn, 77-58, on Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion.
Eleven Crimson players scored and the Harvard bench contributed 37 points as the Crimson defeated the Quakers for the second time in two weeks, sweeping the season series for the second straight year.
“It was a team effort, a lot of fun,” co-captain Maureen McCaffery said. “Everybody came to play.”
“The first half was a little slow, but I think the second half was great and everybody contributed,” she added.
After Penn sprinted to an early 10-2 lead in the game’s opening minutes, Harvard turned up the defensive pressure to force 10 first-half turnovers, and the Crimson took a 33-28 lead into the locker room at the half.
“I thought we were tight offensively, took too long to connect with each other [in the beginning],” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “But I was pretty happy with how we stepped it up on defense.”
Taking advantage of Penn’s poor shooting from the outside—the Quakers were 4-of-18 from three in the first half—Harvard began to force Penn away from the basket and limited them to just 33 percent shooting for the game.
Penn finished just 6-of-31 (19 percent) from behind the three-point line on the night.
An interior tandem of Jennifer Fleischer and Monica Naltner, the Crimson’s chief concern prior to tipoff, combined for just 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting.
“Our focus was stopping them on the inside,” McCaffery added. “I think we did a good job with that and forced them to shoot from the outside.”
The plan almost backfired, however, when Penn’s Joey Rhoads started out hot, sinking four three-pointers in the first half en route to a game-high 21 points.
But the Crimson keyed in on Rhoads in the second half, limiting her to just one field goal after the intermission.
“We just wanted to make sure we got out to the shooters,” sophomore guard Lindsay Hallion said. “She never should have made four. But I think we were definitely more aware of where she was after that.”
Hallion and senior guard Laura Robinson led the Crimson with 11 points apiece. Christiana Lackner contributed seven points and seven rebounds off the bench.
The Crimson blew the game open by starting the second half with a 10-2 run of its own, capped off by a four-point play from Robinson, who made a three-pointer from the top of the key and was fouled with 16:18 remaining in the second half.
She sank the free throw to give the Crimson a 43-30 lead, and the Quakers would never get closer than 11 for the rest of the night.
Harvard received a big lift on Friday as senior guard Jessica Holsey returned to action for the first time since Jan. 7. In six minutes, Holsey notched three assists.
On one possession, Holsey dribbled behind her back around her defender and found a streaking Emily Tay for the layup and the easy two points for the Crimson.
“It’s great to see her playing and great having her around,” McCaffery said. “She’s somebody who can change the game.”
For Penn on the offensive end of the court, freshman Katarina Lacker, sister of Crimson forward Christiana Lacker, finished with 10 points off the bench for the Quakers. Naltner also added 10.