The Harvard women’s basketball team appeared to have no trouble taking all of its momentum on the 45-minute drive to Worcester, Mass. on Tuesday. After shooting over 50 percent in a win against BYU four days earlier, the Crimson moved to 3-1 with an 80-62 win over Holy Cross.
Junior Christine Clark led all scorers with a season-high 25 points. Classmate Missy Mullins added a career-high 13 points as the only other Harvard player to finish in double-figures. Outside of that duo, the win came on a total team effort. Five other players scored at least six points, and the team made 50 percent of its 62 shots while converting on 47 percent of its three-point attempts.
“It was a tremendous team effort tonight, and Holy Cross is a good team,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “I’m pretty proud of the win.”
It took the Crimson nearly two minutes to get on the board, but Clark got the offense going with a three-pointer to give the visitors an early 3-2 lead. From there on, the first half presented the Christine Clark show. The guard entered halftime with 17 points, shooting six-of-nine from the floor and three-of-four from behind the arc. She also accrued five rebounds, two assists, and two steals in the first 20 minutes of play.
“I thought early in the game my teammates did a great job feeding me, and I had a lot of open looks,” Clark said. “That led to me being really efficient scoring wise.”
On Clark’s effort, Harvard slowly built a 45-33 lead to protect in the second half. It did just that, holding a double-digit edge until the final buzzer sounded, keeping the Crusaders to just 37 percent shooting and forcing 11 turnovers in the period.
“We’ve stressed it so much—every single day of practice is always about defense,” Clark said. “So it’s nice that these past two games we’ve really picked it up and played great team defense.”
The closest Holy Cross got to tying the game in the second half came two and a half minutes into the period when a layup cut the Crimson lead to 11, 50-39. But senior Victoria Lippert came right back and hit a jumper to extend the lead to 13. From there, Harvard forced two turnovers, the second of which gave the Crimson the ball under its own basket. At that point, Clark’s dominance of the home team came to a head as she bounced the inbounds pass of a defender’s backside before gathering it and converting an easy layup to give the Crimson a 15-point advantage.
“I just saw that both of the players had their backs turned to me so they couldn’t really see what I was doing,” Clark said of the play.
While the Crusaders might not have been paying attention to the guard on that play, her coach was noticing Clark’s performance all game long.
“Clark played great,” Delaney-Smith said. “She was controlled; she was smart; she didn’t force any shots; she was so accurate; and her shot selection was excellent. She did a great job.”
The team didn’t look back from there, eventually gaining a game-high 22-point lead with just under six minutes to play, even as most of the starters made their way to the bench. Mullins led the team during that stretch, scoring seven points in a span of less than five minutes. The last of those points came on a trey from the top of the key as the shot clock expired.
“Missy has always been one of our best defensive players, and part of what we wanted her to do was grow into an offensive player,” Delaney-Smith said. “She had a terrific offensive game tonight.”
Led by Mullins, the Harvard bench finished the night with 32 total points, while the Crusaders’ backups tallied just six points combined.
“Every single bench player who subbed in kept the same level of play and level of aggressiveness so that we were able to play a pretty consistent game all the way through,” Clark said.
The Crimson’s 3-1 record ties its best start since the team started 5-0 in 1987.
“I think we are right on course,” Delaney-Smith said. “I probably expected to win the games that we’ve won.”
—Staff writer Jacob D. H. Feldman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.