The Harvard women’s basketball team will square off against Providence College—a team that has topped the Crimson in the team’s last five meetings—on Tuesday night at Lavietes Pavilion. Harvard (6-2) will host the Friars (2-5) looking to reverse history after Providence pulled away against the Crimson, 71-60, a season ago.
While attempting to break one streak, Harvard will also try to extend a different one as it goes for its fourth straight victory after beating Eastern Michigan, New Hampshire, and Hofstra. Most recently, the Crimson edged the Pride in a 70-67 overtime battle. The game was the first overtime contest for Harvard this season.
“We need to acknowledge a mature mentality in big situations like that,” co-captain Emma Golen said. “We were finally able to have that attitude and put it together and really pull off a win, which is very exciting.”
The Friars most recently fell to Hartford, 66-39, on Saturday in a contest that saw just one player from Providence, senior guard Symone Roberts, record double-digit points. She finished with 10.
The squad graduated their top two scorers from last season, forwards Teya Wright and Rachel Barnes. Wright and Barnes combined to score an average of 23 points per game last year.
This year, the Friars offense is led by Roberts and sophomore guard Tori Rule. Roberts averages 13.1 points per game and has been pesky on defense, tallying 24 steals this season—three more than all of the other four starters have recorded put together. Rule, who averaged 1.2 points per game last season, has improved to 12.1 points per game.
“Our schedule is kind of funky in that Hofstra and Providence have a lot of similarities, so it feels like in preparing for Hofstra we were also preparing for Providence,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “I think Providence is a very athletic team. They don’t have the power and the frontcourt like Hofstra does, but they have a lot of quickness and athleticism in their guard spots, so it’ll be a similar game.”
Senior forward Brianna Edwards provides power on the glass, grabbing 41 offensive rebounds and 67 total boards this season, both team-highs. Sophomore forward Chanise Baldwin has also been a force under the glass with a team-high 38 defensive boards.
“[Providence is] a very similar team to Hofstra in that they’re very athletic, very quick, and they’re going to try to drive to the basket a lot,” Golen said.
The Friars have stumbled on the road, failing to win any away games thus far this season, and have had difficulty behind the arc, with just 74 three-point attempts and a 14.9 percent success rate on those shots. On the other hand, the Crimson has drilled 42.5 percent of its treys this season.
On Saturday, Harvard persevered against Hofstra in a down-to-the-wire contest in which senior Victoria Lippert led the Crimson in scoring for the second straight game with 21 points. The 6’0” forward was named Ivy League Player of the Week for the second time this season and third time in her career on Monday.
Junior guard Christine Clark joins Lippert as one of Harvard’s top scorers. Clark hit all five of her free throw attempts against the Pride and notched 14 points during the game. During the final 38 seconds of overtime on Saturday, a pair of foul shots by Lippert tied the game and then another two points from the charity stripe by Clark gave Harvard the win.
“We were definitely excited to pull out a win there,” Golen said. “We knew it was going to be a close game.... It came down to the last two possessions, so I think what won it for us [was] our ability to dig down on defense.”
Despite Providence’s weak record, Harvard maintains a careful attitude towards a team that it has not beaten since the 2003-04 season.
“We’ve seen a lot of what Providence does in our opponents,” Delaney-Smith said. “We’re well prepared to defend Providence because they have similarities to some opponents we’ve already played. We just have to be healthy [and] be ready.”
Golen echoed her coach’s sentiments and hoped to repeat the defensive effort which allowed a victory over Hofstra.
“We definitely weren’t happy with the loss [against Providence] last year,” Golen said. “It was just a rough game for us, so we’ll need to bring that same defensive mentality and more consistency to the game this year to pull out a full 40-minute great game with them.”