Visiting Marist used a 16-0 run over the first five minutes of the second half to bury any Harvard hopes for a big non-conference upset, downing the Crimson 76-63 yesterday in Harvard’s home opener at Lavietes Pavilion.
“I thought we only played half a game, or two thirds of a game,” Delaney-Smith said. “It’s pretty disappointing when you play a team as good as Marist, because we could have definitely played with them.”
Marist’s second-half run included eight straight points from guard Julianne Viani, who led the Red Foxes with 19 points and nine assists on the afternoon.
The visitors’ lead ballooned to as large as 23 points on a layup by forward Rachele Fitz with 15:06 to play in the game, and by the time Crimson sophomore Jackie Alemany finally stopped the bleeding with a three-pointer less than a minute later, Harvard was unable to recover.
The Crimson put together the start of a comeback with under 10 minutes to go, using baskets from four different scorers to cut its deficit to 13, but Red Foxes Viani and Erica Allenspach responded with back-to-back jumpers to silence the threat.
“Our weakest point was definitely the beginning of the second half,” sophomore forward Emma Markley said. “We just didn’t come out with enough intensity, and it really set us back.”
Markley jump-started Harvard in the first half, when it looked as though it would be able to hang with the defending MAAC conference champions. It took just 17 seconds after the tip-off for Markley to take a pass from senior guard Emily Tay (seven points, five assists) and hit a pretty baseline jumper to get the Crimson started. Markley was the most aggressive player in the paint on either side all afternoon, scoring 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting and eight rebounds.
“She could be one of the best players to ever wear this uniform,” Delaney-Smith said.
Marist took the lead for good just three minutes into the game on a layup from forward Lynzee Johnson, but Harvard stayed within single-digit striking distance throughout the half. With starters Niki Finelli and Katie Rollins on the bench with two fouls apiece, Alemany was thrust into action and sparked the Crimson’s offense to keep things close. Her three-pointer with 1:50 to play in the period pulled Harvard within two at 24-22.
“It didn’t have enough emotion for me until we put the subs in,” Delaney-Smith said.
“She went wild today,” Markley said of Alemany, who finished with 10 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes. “She had a couple steals, some great shots, she got the chance to let herself show. It was a great game for her.”
But while Harvard had a decent offensive showing, shooting 35 percent from distance and 40 percent overall, its defense wiped that effort off the board—Marist shot a gaudy 48 percent on the day.
Coming off a 36-point effort in her team’s last game at Northeastern, Fitz had another strong performance with 18 points and six rebounds off the bench. In the first half, when she picked up two fouls and was limited to six points, the Crimson missed opportunities to make a run.
“They’re a smart team, and they’re well-coached,” Delaney-Smith said. “They have two superstars, but their role players stepped up.”
Harvard got some good work from its own reserves, with Alemany turning in her best game in a Crimson uniform. But with only Markley and Brogan Berry (13 points, five assists) finishing in double figures and Finelli winding up scoreless, the aggressiveness and discipline that characterized Harvard’s win over Holy Cross last Thursday was sorely lacking.
When the Crimson wasn’t watching Marist connect on relatively easy shots, it was fouling—the team finished with 21 personal fouls to the Red Foxes’ 12.
“There was a lack of pride, emotion and fight,” Delaney-Smith said. “We’re not smart—we foul.”
“It’s definitely a mental thing,” Markley added. “We had a close game and just lost it.”
The Crimson continues non-conference play next Sunday, when it will take on Siena in Albany, N.Y. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.
—Staff writer Emily W. Cunningham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.