The last time the Harvard women’s basketball team squared off against Hofstra, it emerged victorious, becoming the first team in Ivy League history to prevail in a WNIT game.
This Saturday, the Crimson (5-2) will arrive at the Mack Sports Complex looking for a third straight win against the Pride (1-4). In their last meeting, Harvard topped Hofstra at the Mack, 73-71, before falling to Temple in the second round of the tournament.
“That was a pretty big game for us, [to be] in postseason play in the WNIT,” co-captain Emma Golen said. “We knew they were a pretty good opponent and we knew that we could make history by winning that game so we came out ready to play. They gave us a battle down to the last second so we’re excited to play them again.”
Last season, then-senior guard Brogan Berry led the Crimson with 26 points, missing just two field goals and one three in the first half while putting up 19. Junior Christine Clark was the second highest scorer, with 23 points and 13 in the first period.
Berry came out forcefully, with four early treys, and was able to quickly give Harvard a 5-3 lead. With an edge occasionally as large as 13 points, the Crimson held a lead it would not relinquish for the entire game, despite rallying efforts by the Pride in the second half.
Hofsta’s top scorer for the night was 6’0” forward Shante Evans. The then-junior led her team in points and rebounds for the third straight season last year, with an average of 19.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Against Harvard, she netted a double-double of 24 points and 16 boards. As of last Wednesday’s game against Marist, Evans leads the Pride all-time in rebounds with 1,045 in her career.
“Shante is a tough matchup for anyone,” Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “She’s powerful, she’s athletic, she’s got great touch. She’s the whole package so we’re going to have to work hard.”
Evans is once again the leading scorer for her team this year, putting up 19 points in each of Hofstra’s last two contests.
“She’s just a beast in the low post [and is] extremely aggressive,” Golen said. “She’ll get offensive rebounds and I think a big thing for us is just going to be controlling the rebounds and stopping the drive.”
Second in scoring for the Pride is junior Annie Payton, who has averaged 10.8 points per game this year. The guard has been a power coming off the bench, and contributed 16 points against Marist.
In its last outing, Hofstra fell to the Red Foxes, 85-70. The Pride has lost by at least fifteen points in each of its last three contests.
Senior forward Candace Bond will provide defensive strength for the Pride, with a team-high average of 2.4 steals per game, and sophomore guard Andreana Thomas will provide backcourt strength as the team’s leader in assists.
“They’re a very athletic team so I think it’s going to be a tough matchup,” Delaney-Smith said. “I think they’re relying in some key spots on some young kids [and] so are we.”
The Crimson has seen a variety of scoring powers emerge recently. While junior guard Christine Clark was the top scorer in the first six contests and boasts a team-high average of 18.1 points per game, senior forward Victoria Lippert took over during Wednesday’s game against New Hampshire with a game-high 21 points. Harvard sailed to a 63-44 win over the Wildcats helped in large part by Lippert’s 17 points in the second half.
“The [prior] two games [Lippert] hasn’t been scoring like she usually does,” Golen said. “It was a very solid game for her [because] she had great hooks. She was able to complete those and put baskets in. It was a great confidence booster for herself and the entire team.”
Clark contributed 13 points against UNH and sophomore Temi Fagbenle followed in third with nine points. On the year, Fagbenle is third in points per game for the Crimson and had a career-high 15 points at Eastern Michigan last Saturday.
Lippert and Clark also provided pressure on the glass, each grabbing eight rebounds, while Clark and fellow guard sophomore Ali Curtis both handed out four assists.
“Someone different steps up each game and that’s a hard match for any of our opponents,” Delaney-Smith said. “If you look at Harvard and try to stop one of our statistical leaders, inevitably someone else is going to step up and that’s just terrific.”
The Crimson arrives at Hofstra on a two-game winning streak and is hoping to have another strong offensive showing against the Pride less than a year after making history against the team.
“We know they’re going to be hungry to see us and we know it’s going to be another pretty good game,” Golen said.