Mistakes proved costly for the Harvard women's basketball team as it fell, 88-73, to Southern Methodist University on Sunday during the consolation round of the Surf 'N Slam Classic at San Diego State's Viejas Arena. The Crimson (7-5) gave up a combined 50 points off turnovers and free throws en route to a loss at the hands of the Mustangs (9-4).
In the first-ever meeting between the teams, it was SMU junior Keena Mays who ran the floor for the afternoon, putting up a game-high 25 points. Mays, who transferred from Kansas at the beginning of the year, was followed by fellow guard, senior Alisha Filmore, who notched 22 points. Junior forward Akil Simpson closed out the power trio of scoring with 15 points for the night. No player on either team recorded a double-double.
The Crimson shot at 49 percent from the field, led by senior guard Victoria Lippert and her team-high 20 points. The San Diego native drilled a perfect five-of-five from behind the arc, a new career high. Against No. 14/13 Oklahoma State on Friday night, Lippert was held to just one three the entire night out of her six attempts.
[Lippert] is the type of player that can give us a big spark offensively and she was able to do that,” co-captain Emma Golen said. “She had some big shots at very key times. [Lippert] can hit shots when you need her to hit shots and that's what she did tonight.... She created some energy for us that was lacking."
Three other Harvard players saw double digit scoring. Sophomore forward Temi Fagbenle put up 16 points and led the effort on against the glass, grabbing eight rebounds and four blocks, both game-highs. Guards Christine Clark and Ali Curtis scored 11 and 12 points, respectively. Clark led the Ivy League in scoring at the start of this weekend, with an average of 16.6 points per contest. Golen entered the game at the top of the nation in three-point percentage, hitting 66 percent behind the arc, but missed all four attempts during the match-up.
The game started well for the Crimson, who jumped to an early lead with a pair of jumpers from Clark and Fagbenle in the first minute of play. A trey from Lippert brought Harvard up on the Mustangs, 7-6, and a trio of layups by Fagbenle and Curtis led the Crimson to its final lead of the day, 13-10, five and a half minutes into the game. A Mays three tied the contest and from there, SMU would never trail Harvard.
After powerful shooting from Lippert tied the game again at 23-all, the Mustangs went on a 14-2 run over the next four minutes that allowed the team to head into the locker room with a 10 point advantage. In the second period, SMU eventually stretched their lead to as much as 20 points with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
“I think we hung with them in the first half and felt pretty confident going into the second half, but we kind of fell apart in the second half,” Golen said. “They were just hitting in transition. They hit some tough shots and they hit some pretty good shots. We couldn't hang on and get the defensive shots we needed.”
Errors were particularly fatal for the Crimson. 20 Harvard turnovers gave way to 30 points for the Mustangs, who shot at 76.9 percent from the charity stripe, netting 20 points.
“Turnovers are a thing we're always constantly focusing on and trying to reduce in each of our games,” Curtis said. “The other team was very in our face and very good at pressuring defensively so I think offensively we have to be ready to expect that and be on the attack instead of back on our heels.”
Turnovers were also a common theme in the heartbreaking overtime loss to Boston Universty in Dec. 10. 22 were committed as the Crimson fell to the Terriers, 68-61.
The loss is the third straight for Harvard. The Crimson squad has not held a three-game losing streak since the very beginning of last season.
“I thought overall, we learned a lot from playing such a good opponent,” Curtis said. “It really got us prepared for Ivy League [games] coming up.”
-Staff writer Cordelia F. Mendez can be reached at email@example.com