Harvard was rustier than ever after a 21-day layoff, but freshman forward Emma Markley saved the day, leading the team with 13 points and eight boards.
On paper, Harvard’s win over Ivy League rival Dartmouth Saturday night looked more like a junior varsity high school matchup than a contest between what have been the league’s top two squads for the past decade. The Crimson turned the ball over 24 times, tied a season low for points scored, and saw only one starter reach double figures.
But on a night when Harvard turned in by far its best defensive effort of the season, it was enough. The Crimson (8-8, 1-1 Ivy) held the Big Green (4-12, 1-1) to just 34 points on 24 percent shooting from the field in a 47-34 victory at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H.
Three weeks after watching Dartmouth celebrate its victory in the Ivy opener between these two teams at Lavietes Pavilion, Harvard knew that it would have its work cut out for it in Hanover. The Crimson had fallen behind early in the first half in the opener, but did not have to play catch-up again in the rematch. With 3:59 to play in the opening frame, a layup from senior Lindsay Hallion gave Harvard a lead that it would not relinquish.
“I don’t know if we could have gotten any worse,” coach Kathy Delaney Smith said if the first matchup between the two teams. “We just weren’t playing well. But all in all, it was a great wakeup call, not a bad loss.”
In addition to establishing a lead early, stopping Dartmouth guards Koren Schram and Kristen Craft was a priority for Harvard. In the Big Green win, Schram and Craft chipped in with timely shots from long range whenever the Crimson seemed to be gaining momentum. Craft’s three-pointer, which came with 2:37 to play in the game and pushed Dartmouth’s lead to three, was the most memorable back-breaker. This time around, Harvard held Craft scoreless in her 22 minutes of play. Schram managed just four points and shot 0-of-8 from beyond the arc.
“It was the first time this season when we really felt as if we were playing as a unit, instead of one or two people making plays and everyone else just kind of being there,” co-captain Jessica Knox said. “No one was really hitting shots on either side. The difference was that we were making plays on the defensive end.”
Knox led the defensive charge for the Crimson, particularly when the Big Green began to chip away at Harvard’s lead partway through the second half. After Dartmouth forward Sydney Scott hit a free throw to cut Harvard’s lead to two with 14:07 to go in the game, the two teams played scoreless basketball for nearly three full minutes.
“[Knox] was a defensive key for us,” Delaney-Smith said. “We weren’t fluid offensively, weren’t getting the easy shots, but we kept getting better shots because she was a demon on the defensive end.”
Junior Emily Tay hit two jumpers on either end of a 9-0 Crimson run that lasted over five minutes and pushed Harvard’s lead to 13. Tay’s 10 points made her the lone Crimson starter in double figures, but she shot only 4-for-15 from the floor.
On a lackluster shooting night for the Crimson starters—Hallion and juniors Katie Rollins and Niki Finelli combined for just 10 points—freshman forward Emma Markley had a breakout game for Harvard. The rookie scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds in just 15 minutes of action, shooting 6-for-6 from the floor.
The Crimson got off to a slow start early on, falling behind 7-2 just four minutes into the game. But junior forward Liz Tindal hit a three-pointer to give Harvard its first lead at 10-7, and timely steals from Tay, Hallion, and senior Adrian Budischak kept Dartmouth from getting into a groove on the other end. Baskets were few and far between for both teams, but a Crimson run in the last two minutes of the frame—featuring four quick points from Markley—gave Harvard momentum and an eight-point lead heading in the locker room.
“Making shots isn’t always under your control, but working hard every minute you’re on the floor is something we should all be able to do—it’s a matter of pride,” Knox said. “We have goals to fulfill, and we’re only going to do that if we’re working as hard as we can.”
The Crimson continues Ivy play this weekend as Penn and Princeton will visit Lavietes Pavilion on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday.
—Staff writer Emily W. Cunningham can be reached at email@example.com.