Harvard Mounts Late-Game Rout

With esteemed Harvard economics professor Gregory Mankiw seated two seats to the right of the players on the Crimson women’s basketball bench, grinning with nervous anticipation, a win against Brown Friday night was surely in high demand. Though the Bears (3-25, 1-13 Ivy) have an unfavorable record this season, Harvard (19-8, 11-2) did not pull safely ahead until late in the second half in this fast-paced duel, defeating Brown 81-57. Friday’s victory was a much needed “W” and kept the team in the running for a shared Ivy League title with first place Dartmouth.

The Bears’ lineup was unique in that it was unspecialized and versatile—composed of nimble, evenly-sized players (all but two of Brown’s players are within three inches of 5’10) who were equally athletic and capable of filling any role that was immediately necessary on either end of the floor.

Both teams’ offenses took time to warm up early on, while close defense set the tone for the game. Brown wasted no time before using a full court press, forcing the Crimson to rush on offense. Neither team shot particularly well at first, with gaps of two minutes between scores for either squad.

“We had some matchup issues,” Harvard Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “I don’t think we should be able to be pressed. We have enough ball handlers and we’re smart enough. But we were ok.”

Eventually, the Crimson adjusted to the press and gained an advantage by connecting on the open looks that it was able to create over a tight Bears defense. With under 13 minutes to go in the half, Harvard co-captain Emily Tay hit three mid-range jumpers in a row to jump-start the offense, giving the Crimson a 15-8 lead. The tempo of the game picked up at this point, as Brown forced turnovers and Harvard took control on offense.

The Crimson had to earn each offensive trip over the half-court line, carefully swinging the ball laterally between guards until one had room to push it forward. Harvard protected the ball by keeping it on the perimeter, patiently waiting to feed the post players when they established inside position. Forwards such as Claire Wheeler, Emma Moretzsohn, and Katie Rollins had impressive games, dominating the paint by grabbing boards on both ends of the floor and combining for 24 points and 20 rebounds. The Crimson outscored Brown 40-20 in the paint over the course of the game.

“Claire did some nice things,” Delaney-Smith said. “Katie rotated well, Emma Moretzsohn was hungry out there for us. I’m pretty pleased.”

Brown stayed competitive by contesting not only every shot, but every pass. Instead of allowing the initial passes of each play to occur, the Bears began swiping for the dishes on the perimeter. Brown guard Sadiea Williams, who finished with 10 points and four rebounds, was an athletic scrapper who rallied her team by challenging all of Harvard’s proceedings.

With just over 7 minutes to play until halftime, the Crimson led 26-14. Brown stole and slashed their way back into the game behind the efforts of players such as Williams as well as forwards Sarah Delk and Amy Ehrhart. Harvard’s lead was just 6 at the break.

“I’m not sure what happened towards the end of the [first] half,” said Crimson sophomore forward Emma Markley.

Luckily for Harvard, Tay caught fire after halftime. Finishing with 14 points and eight assists, most of the offense passed through her hands, and she spread the flame to her teammates. She was a triple threat, sinking jumpers, foul shots, and sharing the ball with stylish no-look feeds.

Double-digit point contributions from four of the Crimson’s five starters allowed for Harvard to pull ahead in the second half and take control of the game, coasting to victory in the closing minutes.

Markley claimed the paint as her own as soon as the second period began. In addition to nine rebounds, she finished with 19 points, 15 of which came after halftime. With her acrobatic rebounds and inside scoring, Markley proved that at 6’3, she was not only the tallest player on the floor, but also one of the strongest and most athletic.

“We focused on coming out on offense and attacking every time we had the chance,” said Markley. “We definitely crashed the boards and went back in strong.”

“Emma Markley is…Emma Markley,” Delaney-Smith said.

Freshman guard Brogan Berry celebrated her birthday in style, finishing with 13 points and five assists.

As Mankiw might highlight, Harvard was the better team statistically in the second half. The Crimson outscored the Bears, 49-31, in the period, outrebounded them 25-15, and evened up the amount of free throws taken at 23. Shooting percentage was indicative of the result, as Harvard shot almost 50 percent from field goal range for the game while Brown shot under 30 percent.

“I was invited to be honorary coach tonight,” Mankiw said. “It was a great game."