HEMPSTEAD, N.Y.—Though the men’s team fell in its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1946, all was not amiss in the world of Harvard basketball Thursday night.
Thanks to early lights-out shooting and late lockdown defense from co-captain Brogan Berry, the Crimson women’s basketball team earned the Ivy League’s first-ever victory in a women’s NIT game with a 73-71 defeat of Hofstra at the Mack Sports Complex. The Crimson moves on to play Temple in the second round on Saturday.
Berry started the game on fire, going seven for seven from the field—including four for four from long distance—en route to 19 points in the game’s first 15 minutes to help Harvard build a double-digit first-half lead.
“I hit the zone as a player, and my teammates got me some wide-open shots,” said Berry, who tied a season high with 26. “I just shot when I was open, took it hard when I could, and tried to do whatever I could to keep this team above water in the first half.”
The Crimson maintained its advantage the remainder of the contest, going up by 13 at 63-50 on junior Victoria Lippert’s jumper with 8:51 to go. But from there, the Pride went on an 18-6 run to cut the deficit to one on a Katelyn Loper three with 1:26 left.
Lippert missed a three at the other end, but sophomore Christine Clark was there for an offensive rebound and put-back layup to give Harvard a 71-68 lead.
With a chance to tie with 43 seconds remaining, Hofstra’s Nicole Capurso spotted up for what looked like an open three. But Berry, the senior, was there to swat it away. The block was her first of the season and just the sixth of her career, but it could not have come at a more timely moment.
“It was more of an instinctual play,” Berry said. “I wasn’t really going for the block, I was just trying not to foul her.... But I don’t get very many [blocks], so it was a great feeling.”
Following the rejection, the Crimson got the ball to its co-captain, who swished two free throws to all but ice the game with 24 seconds remaining.
Loper hit a transition three at the other end with 8.2 seconds left, and after Clark missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Pride had a chance to tie. But Hofstra’s Candace Bond drove the lane and airballed a shot at the buzzer in traffic, giving the Crimson the Ancient Eight’s first-ever WNIT win.
“We’re [also] the only Ivy team that’s ever won a game in the NCAA, so this is another piece of great history for the program,” Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said.
Berry had just seven points in the second half after an electric first.
Her four threes gave the Crimson a 16-9 lead midway through the opening period. After Hofstra got within four at 22-18, junior Elle Hagedorn had a steal and transition layup and Berry had a short pull-up jumper and an acrobatic and-one off the glass to push the Crimson lead back to 10.
A Capurso three later made it 33-30 with three minutes remaining in the half, but Clark answered with a left-corner long ball, two free throws, and a jumper before Hofstra’s Shante Evans hit two free throws to make it 42-30 going into the break.
“Christine’s a phenomenal scorer for us,” Berry said. “She always hits big shots.... We’re starting to play really well with each other.”