HANOVER, N.H.—The Harvard women’s basketball team was a group relieved to see 2006 come to a close. After posting a 2-11 non-conference record that belied the squad’s young talent, the Crimson welcomed the New Year and with it, Ivy League competition. The team’s resolutions? Better defense, fewer turnovers, and a determination to play up to its potential.
So far in 2007, it has delivered on those promises.
Harvard (3-11, 1-0 Ivy) wasted no time in seeing its resolutions through on the court, and began the year in an unfamiliar position: celebrating at midcourt. After rallying from 16 points down, the Crimson posted a thrilling 71-68 victory over two-time defending Ivy champion Dartmouth (4-9, 0-1) Saturday at Leede Arena.
In a Crimson season that has featured primarily lopsided decisions—most resulting in losses—Saturday’s nailbiter came down to the very last possession. The last eight minutes of the game had all the features of the historic Harvard-Dartmouth rivalry: countless lead changes, back-breaking three-pointers, and intense defense. But it was a simple foul call that sunk the shoulders of the Hanover faithful and brought the Harvard bench to its feet.
After a sloppy pass that led to a Lindsay Hallion steal and layup, the Big Green faced a three-point deficit and fed the ball to forward Sydney Scott. But Crimson center Emma Moretzsohn stepped in and took the blow of Scott’s swinging elbow, sending play the other way. Hallion promptly nailed a jumper on the other end to up the Crimson’s lead to five with just under a minute left.
The entire second half was a highlight reel for Hallion, who just the day before found herself in the hospital with a stomach bug. The junior guard shook off sickness to record a career-high 22 points—18 after the break—and added three rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
“Lindsay is really the heart and soul of this team,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “I think we were all a little freaked when we thought she might not play.”
“I knew that I would play, no matter what,” Hallion added. “This is such a big game for us, and I knew I wanted to be on the court.”
Despite Hallion’s second-half heroics, the Ivy champions would not go down quietly. Dartmouth senior Ashley Taylor (22 points), named the League Player of the Week in each of the past two weeks, hit a gutsy three-pointer from far beyond the arc with 37.4 seconds remaining to cut the Crimson lead to two. After two Hallion free throws, Koren Schram hit another three-ball to pull the Big Green within one.
But with only ten seconds left, Dartmouth had no choice but to send Hallion back to the charity stripe, where she hit both shots to seal the win.
But coming before the Crimson’s momentous comeback was its first-half sloppiness. Harvard committed 15 turnovers before the break, while Dartmouth had only five.
“We played horribly in the first half,” Hallion said. “At halftime, we knew that it wasn’t indicative of how we could play.”
“Before halftime, we looked like we had just never met each other—defensively, not smart and offensively, not connected,” Delaney-Smith added. “I just asked them, ‘Who are you? Have some pride.’”
The second half was a different story, as the Crimson forced eight turnovers and committed only five while holding the Big Green to just 33.3 percent shooting from the field. Two bench players helped out when senior forward Christiana Lackner found herself on the bench with four fouls for most of the second half. Moretzsohn scored a career-high 12 points, including back-to-back layups from the right block with under two minutes remaining. Fellow sophomore Liz Tindal, another post weapon in Delaney-Smith’s arsenal, provided a spark with a career-high 11 points and two key long-range buckets down the stretch. Her basket from the top of the key cut Dartmouth’s lead to 5 with 13:50 to play, but it was a jumper from the same spot five minutes later that proved a key momentum-builder for the suddenly-surging Crimson. Harvard followed Tindal’s bucket with a gritty defensive stop and two Katie Rollins free throws to tie the game at 52 with 8:08 to go.
“Liz is a great shooter, and she had some key efforts on the boards as well,” Delaney-Smith said, alluding to Tindal’s team-high seven rebounds. “And Emma is 6’7. If we get her the ball correctly, she’s tough to stop.”
The team now breaks for three weeks for reading and exam periods before going on the road to face Yale on January 26 and Brown on the 27th.
—Staff writer Emily W. Cunningham can be reached at email@example.com.