The Harvard women’s basketball team was debilitated by 24 turnovers Friday night at Jadwin Gymnasium, as they fell to Princeton (20-4, 10-0 Ivy), 74-44. The Crimson’s two-dozen turnovers plagued Harvard all night, leading to nearly half of the Tigers’ points.
“If you turn the ball over 24 times, you get less shots, you get less possessions, and the other team [gets] more chances.” co-captain Brogan Berry said. “The pure statistical downfall of having so many turnovers is that you’re not able to get back in the game.”
Only shooting 33.3 percent in the contest, Harvard (13-11, 6-4) struggled mightily on offense.
“We weren’t getting the ball in the hands of the right people to get the shots that we wanted,” coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said.
Berry led the Crimson with eight points, while junior Miriam Rutzen and sophomore Elise Gordon added six points apiece for Harvard.
“I have always [thought] that when defensively we could put it on the floor that we have enough people to make it happen offensively.” Delaney-Smith said. “Not last night. We were just out of sorts offensively.”
Tough defense kept Harvard in the game for most of the first half. After Princeton opened the game on a 9-0 run, the Crimson chipped away at the deficit with a couple of baskets from Berry and a three-pointer from sophomore Christine Clark, narrowing the gap to four a little over halfway through the first frame.
Harvard did not threaten for long. The Tigers responded with a 13-0 scoring spree to bring the score at halftime to 32-15.
“It was close for most of the game, especially in the first half,” junior Victoria Lippert said. “They didn’t have a huge lead on us until they started scoring transition buckets.”
“I, for the first time, was really really pleased with our defense.” Delaney-Smith added. “I don’t feel that Princeton scored in the half court but once or twice in the first half, and then we just had a rash of inexplicable turnovers.”
The Tigers were able to notch 14 points off of fast breaks and 35 points off of Crimson turnovers.
Though Princeton tallied point after point Friday night, Harvard played solid half-court defense and pulled down 34 rebounds as a team. Junior Elle Hagedorn was able to grab eight rebounds of her own, three of which came on the offensive end of the floor.
“We really knew that the only thing we had to do was to take care of the ball on offense and to just attack the boards.” Berry said. “It’s unfortunate because we knew what the problem was, we just couldn’t make the adjustment.”
“When we would go to run our offense, we would turn the ball over,” Delaney-Smith continued. “It definitely came down to turnovers in my opinion, and I think it was a mindset unfortunately. We should have fed off of great defense because our defense was really good.”
The Tigers immediately came out of halftime with a 9-4 scoring run. Princeton lead stayed around 20 for most of the second half, with the Tigers sinking 42 points to Harvard’s 29 in the half. Princeton’s Niveen Rasheed and Lauren Edwards led the scoring for the Tigers, netting 16 and 17 points, respectively.
“Any time [Banghart] took her starters out, she would put them right back in again because we were able to get little runs of momentum,” Delaney-Smith said.
The Crimson bench—led by Gordon and freshman Erin McDonnell—provided some late offensive spark for Harvard, as Gordon knocked down six points and McDonnell was able to notch five. Freshman Ali Curtis also came off the bench to force two quick turnovers for the Crimson.
But its late efforts fell well short as the buzzer brought an end to the 30-point defeat. Despite the loss, the Crimson stayed in second place in the Ivy League standings thanks to Yale’s Friday night loss at Columbia.
A postseason bid in the WNIT tournament remains in reach for Harvard depending on the remaining games around the Ivy League.
“I think it’s just a matter of taking it one game at a time.” Lippert said. “You can’t hang your head for a long time in this league.”