The Harvard women’s basketball team turned the ball over 28 times and shot one-of-19 from deep Saturday in Hanover, N.H., posting its lowest point total of the season in a 58-45 loss to Dartmouth. In its last game two weeks ago, the Crimson (10-5, 1-1 Ivy) tallied its highest score of the year in an 88-66 victory over the same Big Green (3-13, 1-1 Ivy).
“I am shocked,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “I did not expect such poor offensive performance. Our shooting was shockingly bad, which is very uncharacteristic of us.”
Junior Christine Clark led all scorers with 22 points. She posted the same tally in the last matchup, but this time it wasn’t enough as no other Harvard player finished in double figures. Sophomore Temi Fagbenle brought down 10 rebounds and accrued eight points but the rest of the team outside of her and Clark only made slightly more than 20 percent of its shots.
Senior Victoria Lippert and co-captain Emma Golen, the team’s second and fifth-highest scorers on the year, respectively, combined to shoot two-for-14, including zero-for-nine from three-point range.
“Our spacing wasn’t good, our timing wasn’t good, and our shooting wasn’t good,” Delaney-Smith said. “A lot of the shots were pretty good shots that didn’t fall that otherwise usually fall.”
Harvard’s inability to rebound consistently on the offensive end made matters worse.
“It’s just unfortunate that two of our very best shooters had a tough night tonight but we have to be able to back them up… and get offensive rebounds and get them second chances,” co-captain Miriam Rutzen said. “We weren’t really able to do that consistently tonight. It was one shot per possession on the offensive end.”
Outside of its shooting performance, the visiting squad did enough to protect its six-game winning streak against Dartmouth. The Crimson held the Big Green to 31 percent shooting, out-rebounded its hosts, 42-30, and only gave up four fast break points despite tallying 28 turnovers.
“Defensively we did fine, we did great,” Delaney-Smith said. “We would have held them to the low-40s if we didn’t have to foul at the end. So it was not the defense; we were absolutely horrible on the offensive end.”
Thanks to its stingy defense, Harvard nearly overcame its poor shooting late in the game. The Crimson hadn’t held a lead since the score was 9-8, but a Clark layup cut the deficit to 44-38 with just under four minutes to play, the smallest Dartmouth’s lead had been in over 10 minutes. After watching their male counterparts erase a large lead in a comeback victory earlier Saturday, the Harvard women knew the game was not lost.
“We never gave up,” Rutzen said. “Our toughness is key, and our willingness to keep fighting through despite adversity was evident.”
But the squad proved incapable of recreating the men’s afternoon success. The teams traded baskets and free throws to move the score to 47-41, but Golen and freshman Shilpa Tummula missed threes on the Crimson’s next two possessions while the Big Green sunk free throws to extend its lead on the other end.
Clark added two late buckets but it wasn’t enough as Dartmouth iced the game with 11 straight made free throws, beating Harvard for the first time since 2010. A number of those charity-stripe conversions came from junior Nicola Zimmer, who tallied a team-high 18 points on the night after missing her team’s previous three matchups, including its first contest against the Crimson.
“She was their absolute emotional leader,” Delaney-Smith said. “She’s a nice player, she’s important to them.”
Whether it was Zimmer’s return, the change of venue, or another factor that caused the different result, it was clear from the start that Saturday’s matchup would share few similarities with the two teams’ prior engagement.
Whereas Harvard jumped out to a 10-2 lead early two weeks ago, it was Dartmouth who grabbed a 7-1 advantage Saturday. The Crimson erased that early deficit but couldn’t keep up with the Big Green over the full 40 minutes.
“They just took chances, they were physical—they had absolutely nothing to lose and that’s how they played, and we played exactly the opposite,” Delaney-Smith said. “No matter what I could do, no matter who I put in, we just stayed tight.”
While it is still early in the season, the loss hurts Harvard’s ability to achieve its goal of dethroning three-time Ivy champion Princeton. The Crimson still controls its own destiny, but will now need to defeat the Tigers twice to earn the conference crown or hope that another Ancient Eight squad knocks off a Princeton team that notched its 25th straight conference victory with a 74-44 beat down of Penn Saturday.
—Staff writer Jacob D. H. Feldman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.