It came down to the wire at Hofstra on Saturday, but an 11-4 run by the Harvard women’s basketball team ultimately sealed the overtime win, 70-67.
Up by six with less than three minutes to go in regulation, the Crimson (6-2) held a slight lead, But with 13 seconds on the clock, the Pride (1-5) tied the game with a pair of free throws by senior forward Shante Evans, who had a game and season-high 24 points for Hofstra. Harvard failed to break the tie with seconds left as the game went to overtime.
“We knew we were going to face a team that loves to drive and relies heavily on the inside game with [Evans],” co-captain Emma Golen said. “We knew we had to contain the drive and just make [Evans] as uncomfortable as much as we could.”
The Crimson fell behind in the opening seconds of the overtime period after Pride sophomore forward Anma Onyeuku—who contributed 12 points on the night—hit a jumper and followed it up with a driving layup 20 seconds later.
After putting Harvard within one with her third three-pointer of the game, senior forward Victoria Lippert drew a foul and hit back-to-back free throws to give the Crimson its first lead of the period with 38 seconds left to play. Lippert’s 21 points were a team-high and matched her season-high from Wednesday’s game against New Hampshire.
“[Lippert] was great. She was ice,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “She loves contact, and she has the ability to take a hit and finish her shot.”
As the clock wound down, junior guard Christine Clark sunk two from the charity stripe to finish off the game. After leading the team in scoring in the first six games of the season, Clark finished with 14 points—her second-lowest total of the year.
“They were pounding [Clark],” Delaney-Smith said. “She should have gone to the line way more than she did, but she just didn’t get any calls. That was their game plan, to take her out.”
Defense proved crucial in Harvard’s third straight victory. The Crimson held Hofstra to 35 percent shooting from the field in the first half and 39 in the second, which allowed it to stay in the game despite being outscored 30-23 in the second period.
In its sixth win of the season, Harvard topped the Pride in shooting percentage across the board, limiting Hofstra—which has not shot better than 36 percent from behind the arc this season—to two three pointers.
“We knew that their guards were looking to drive to the middle and hopefully get our defense to commit,” Golen said. “We knew outside shooting wasn’t their strength and so we collapsed in the middle.”
The Crimson jumped out to a four-point lead to open the game, but the next 15 minutes were a contentious back-and-forth battle with 12 lead changes. Harvard took control in the last five minutes of the half, going on a 9-2 run to close out the period up by seven.
“We had very different styles of play,” Golen said. “I think they wanted a very quick game and we wanted to slow it down and execute our offense more, so I think there were different times in the game where each strategy was working better.”
The Pride came back reinvigorated after the break, chipping away at the Crimson’s lead and tying up the score at 41 with 12 minutes to play. After trading points for the next four minutes, Harvard opened up a six-point lead—its biggest lead of the half—on a three pointer by Lippert.
With sophomore forward Temi Fagbenle—who ranks third on the team in scoring—missing due to illness, Harvard demonstrated its depth. Led by Melissa Mullins with six points in 21 minutes, the bench contributed 12 points to Hofstra’s two.
With contributions from Lippert and Clark, who went 4-4 and 5-5 from the charity stripe, respectively, the Crimson took advantage of the Pride’s struggle to find the net from the line. Although Hofstra had more than twice as many free throw opportunities as Harvard, it capitalized on only 15 to the Crimson’s nine.
Harvard shot 42 percent from the field, its second lowest performance of the season. Delaney-Smith credits the win to the Crimson’s tough defense, which forced 15 turnovers that resulted in 20 points.
“We toughed it out on the defensive end, and that turned it into a win,” Delaney-Smith said. “That is the kind of team that we’re trying to be, so I’m very proud.”