It wasn’t always pretty, but the Harvard women’s basketball team will take it.
Although UMass (3-11) made a spirited comeback, the Crimson’s 17-point halftime lead was too much to overcome yesterday afternoon at Lavietes Pavilion. Led by junior Brogan Berry’s 18 points, Harvard (6-5) snapped a two-game losing streak with an 83-70 victory.
“We really put the pressure on them early, got up,” Berry said. “Unfortunately, we were a little bit inconsistent towards the end of the game, let them come back. But overall, I think we finished strong, played as a team, and got the W.”
The two squads traded baskets in the early going before a pair of three-pointers from sophomore Victoria Lippert just past the midway point of the half sparked a 21-6 run that let the Crimson pull away for good.
“Victoria, she’s an awesome player,” Berry said. “She’s a scorer. You give her the ball, she’s going to put the ball in the basket. And sometimes you need players like that to take over.”
Although Lippert came off the bench on her 20th birthday, she still put up 17 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes of play.
“Victoria is better and better now that I’m making her my sixth player—and I know the world is looking at me like I’m an idiot,” said Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith. “But it’s so great for our team that she’s doing what she’s doing as a sixth player. So if I can get her to keep getting better, or be mad at me trying to earn a starting role back, and she plays like that, then that makes me a good coach.”
Though Lippert provided the offensive spark, it was a team defensive effort that allowed Harvard to build up its insurmountable halftime lead.
After Minutewoman Jasmine Watson put in a layup with 7:08 to play in the first, the Crimson defense did not allow another field goal until after halftime.
“Being at home was definitely a huge part of our success,” Berry said. “Everybody came off the bench with a lot of energy. We buckled down on defense, which is where we really struggle. And once we play solid defense, we can really get our offense flowing, and that’s when we start pulling away from teams.”
At the break, Harvard was up, 39-22, shooting 53.3 percent compared to UMass’s 20 percent.
“I actually liked our whole game in the first half, to be honest—I thought we shared the ball well,” Delaney-Smith said. “I want to be a better defensive team, and I thought we were.”
The Crimson came out strong to start the second half, building its biggest lead of the day—a 46-24 advantage—on a pair of buckets from freshman Christine Clark. But towards the end of the second half of the frame, Harvard’s defense began to falter.
Minutewoman freshman Sara English subbed into the game midway through the second half and quickly made an impact. English scored seven straight points, tying her career high in just six minutes of play and giving her team a much-needed spark, cutting the deficit to 13.
Though the Crimson would rally back to push its lead to 19 with 4:55 to play, UMass clawed its way back. The combination of Dee Montgomery’s inside presence and Megan Zullo’s timely three-point shooting trimmed the margin to as few as eight points with two minutes to play.
“We were forcing some shots up on offense that gave them easy rebounds, easy fast breaks, and transition defense is the hardest defense to play,” Berry said. “They took advantage of that, so they got some easy baskets, got some easy threes.”
Berry sunk a deep two from the left corner with 1:30 on the clock to give Harvard a 75-65 lead, and though the Minutewomen tried to foul to get back into the game, the Crimson hit all six of its last-minute free throws to seal the 13-point victory.
Fourteen different Harvard players saw the court, with four of them—Berry, Lippert, Clark, and senior Emma Markley—finishing with double-digit point totals.
But as the team looks ahead to a midweek matchup with No. 25 Boston College, Delaney-Smith still sees much room for improvement.
“By this point, I’m expecting 40 minutes, and we didn’t get it,” she said. “We’re better than that—that shouldn’t have happened...This isn’t a feel-good game for me...We’re not putting 40 minutes together, and we should be ashamed of that.”