After the Harvard women’s basketball team (7-2) and Providence fought a close battle for the lead for most of the Tuesday’s contest, the Crimson secured a comfortable lead in the final minutes, defeating the Friars, 73-59, at Lavietes Pavilion.
In the opening minutes of the game, the home team fell behind, scoring only four points by the 15th minute.
“[Providence] decided to use their athleticism,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “They were all over the passing lanes, all over the ball handlers, they were taking [junior Christine Clark] out of the game. They were very active, very athletic, very physical, and I felt that set us back on our heels in the first half.”
After a timeout, Harvard rallied and scored 12 points in a row to gain a four-point lead over the Friars. The scoring streak began with a shot just inside the arc from senior forward Victoria Lippert.
“I think we sort of just realized we didn’t have to be back on our heels,” Delaney-Smith said. “I think we were trying to combat [Providence] with our quickness when we should have taken our time and had a little more control.”
Clark and sophomore guard Ali Curtis added other critical buckets during the Crimson run. Clark scored off a rebound, and Curtis drained a free throw and a three-pointer to bring the score difference to one point, forcing Providence to use its first timeout.
“The biggest challenge was really working our way back into the game and not giving up,” Clark said. “It’s really easy to get discouraged at that point because it’s so early and they’re up so much, and to fight back was tremendous.”
The Crimson defense helped to close the scoring gap with a series of blocks, most notably a double-team effort from Lippert and co-captain forward Miriam Rutzen with 10 minutes remaining. Harvard also racked up seven steals and forced 15 turnovers in the first period.
“We just have to keep playing us, and we did,” sophomore forward Temi Fagbenle said. “We just slowed it down, played our game, and tried to run offense as well as we could. Defense was the main thing for us, making those stops.”
With less than six minutes remaining in the first half the Friars ended the Crimson scoring streak and brought the score to a tie, 22-22.
With 40 seconds on the clock, the Friars took a one-point lead. After stealing the ball from Providence, junior center Elise Gordon scored a basket, but it came a fraction of a second after the buzzer, sending the Crimson into halftime down 28-27.
Heading into the second frame, Lippert led Harvard with 11 points, while the Friars’ Brianna Edwards registered 12 points. The Crimson shot 44 percent from the field and 60 percent from beyond the three-point arc, while Providence failed to shoot a single three-pointer during the first half of the game.
“It’s just a matter of getting our hearts and heads behind it and making it happen,” Delaney-Smith said.
The Friars scored the first field goal of the second half, which Clark immediately responded to with two points of her own.
Lippert then found Fagbenle who scored a right-handed layup, and when Providence returned to offense, Curtis stole the ball, which ended up in Lippert’s hands. After a give-and-go with Rutzen, the senior forward scored another two points, giving Harvard a one-point lead.