The Harvard women’s basketball team fell behind an aggressive Fairfield University squad after five minutes in the opening half, surrendering an early 8-5 lead and never quite catching in a 64-49 loss at Lavietes Pavilion last night.
“Our shooting was horrible,” coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “You can’t win a ballgame shooting like that, so that’s the deal.”
Hitting just 38.9 percent of its shots from the floor, the Crimson (1-2, 0-0 Ivy) failed to find the bottom of the net or its stride all night. Not much better, the Stags (3-0, 0-0 MAAC) made 46.2 percent of their field goals but went 68.8 percent on opportunities from the charity stripe—a stark contrast to Harvard’s abyssmal 33.3 percent clip from the line.
“We can’t shoot 4-of-12 [from the line] in our own gym, especially,” co-captain Lindsay Hallion said. “Just between shots we normally make and our free throws, I think we gave away a lot. I think we gave away this game.”
In the first half, the Crimson took only three shots from beyond the arc, netting just one. On the game, Harvard shot just 21.4 percent from three, a sharp contrast to a season average of 42.9 percent from long range. Fairfield posted 4-of-9 in the same category in the first half, increasing the lead to 29-21 at half on Sabra Wrice’s dagger from three with just 24 seconds remaining before the break.
Junior forward Katie Rollins led Crimson scoring in the half and the game, putting up six points in the first four minutes and finishing with 12 on the night. Junior guard Niki Finelli posted 11 points and eight rebounds to aid in the losing effort.
But in the end, Harvard couldn’t find the bottom of the net when the team needed it most.
“Our shooting percentages in practice are off the charts, and we just didn’t bring it to the court tonight,” Rollins said.
Though the Stags muscled out two 9-0 runs in the first half, taking an eight-point advantage into the intermission, Harvard managed to tie up the game with 11 minutes reminding in the opening frame on a three-pointer by Finelli.
In what would become a trend, however, the Crimson forfeited nine straight points after Finelli’s game-tying three, a run sustained by Fairfield’s effort on the offensive glass.
Ultimately, the Stags snagged 18 rebounds to the Crimson’s 11 in the first half and trounced the Crimson on the boards all night, finishing with 37 rebounds to Harvard’s 26.
“We got outrebounded by a team we should not have been outrebounded by,” Delaney-Smith said.
Trouble on the boards has been a recurring theme in Harvard’s games both this season and last.
“Although it was in the forefront of all our minds, it never really clicked in all five people’s minds at the same time,” Rollins said. “I think we had the ability to—it was a matter of focusing on it and hitting a body and preventing them from getting boards. Until we can all decide to click at the same time, we’re going to have this rebounding problem for the rest of the season.”
Harvard’s defense—the lingering question mark on a team filled with offensive stars—was excellent at times and forgettable at others, as Wrice sliced her way to 16 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the floor. The athletic trio of Wrice, forward Baendu Lowenthal and Stephanie Geehan combined for 43 of Fairfield’s 63 points.
“They hit the threes against the zone and the man, inexplicably,” Delaney-Smith said. “The person playing the ball just fogged out, and it wasn’t the same person—it was E-Tay [guard Emily Tay] once, Niki [Finelli] once, Lindsay [Hallion] once.”
In particular, the Crimson had no answer for Wrice, whose bevy of pull-up jumpers and crafty putbacks off of offensive rebounds frustrated Harvard throughout the second half. When the teams met last year, Wrice took 22 points for her team in a 73-57 win in Connecticut.
“She hit some big shots in big moments, and that’s what she’s supposed to do for them,” Hallion said. “We should have been more aware of her.”
The Crimson came out of halftime reenergized and went on a ten-point tear, bringing the margin to one and eventually tying the game at 12:01 on freshman Claire Wheeler’s layup. Rollins pulled the team to within two with a three-point play, and Wheeler’s layup forced a Fairfield timeout. This would be the last time Harvard shared the lead.
The Stags then went on a 10-2 run to take a 47-39 lead with 9:26 to go.
“We had a good high-energy run in the second half, and we kind of let it slip through our fingers and went flat again,” Rollins said. “That’s when we really needed to start pushing it up the court, [getting] quicker outlets on the forwards’ part.”
Fairfield called a momentum-deflating time-out at 37 all to derail the Crimson rally.
“That’s when the energy really fizzled out,” Rollins said
Harvard’s characteristic high-octane offense came up empty, leaving the Crimson struggling for points after the run to tie the game at 37.
“Our shots weren’t falling,” Delaney-Smith said. “I would say there’s probably 10 or 12 points that are absolute gimmies the next 100 times we take them.”