After a loss to Dartmouth last Saturday handed the Harvard women’s basketball team an early Ivy League loss and halted its six-game win streak against its Hanover opponents, the Crimson will try to get back on track this weekend when it faces Yale and Brown on the road.
“You wipe the slate clean because I have always said, and I say again this year, anyone can be anyone in the Ivy League because it’s a very special conference,” said Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith. “We don’t have a postseason. Every game is huge and I think there’s just enormous pride.”
Harvard (10-6, 1-1 Ivy) will arrive in New Haven fresh off the loss to the Big Green, 58-45, that saw the Crimson give up 28 turnovers to its opponents.
“Turnovers were the name of the game,” Delaney-Smith said. “That was it, coupled with poor shooting, but we could have handled the poor shooting. We couldn’t handle 28 turnovers.”
Controlling the ball will be necessary as the Harvard defense looks to contain a trio of high-scoring Bulldog (6-10, 1-1) guards.
“We know that Yale is a quick team,” co-captain Emma Golen said. “They like to shoot quick and play an up-tempo game. They’re in your face the whole game.”
Junior Janna Graf put up team-high points against the Crimson last year in both Yale’s win, 68-63, and loss, 71-51. This season, she has averaged 11.9 points per game, trailing scoring leader sophomore Sarah Halejian, who nets an average of 13.9 points per game. Senior Megan Vasquez posted her career-high four rebounds against Harvard last Jan. 27 and rounds out the group with 8.8 points per game.
“They try to use their quickness in the outside game against us,” Golen said. “I think we just need to focus on containing the drive as well as getting after the three point shots since they do have some pretty good shooters as well.”
Similarly, a sharp-shooting backcourt runs the floor for the Bears (6-9, 1-1). Junior guard Lauren Clarke pulls in an average of 13.9 points while handing out three assists per game. Co-Captain Sheila Dixon notches 11.9 points and leads the effort on the glass, grabbing an average of five boards per game.
“Even though neither one of [the two teams] have a tremendous non-conference record, they’re both extremely dangerous,” Delaney-Smith said. “They’ve played some good teams to close games and didn’t end up with the win. They’re similar – they’re athletic, they’re scrappy, they’re physical.”
The Bulldogs and Brown have split match-ups with each other this season, with the Bears taking the first contest, 68-67, thanks to a buzzer-beater, but dropping the second, 59-47.
In the second meeting of the two teams, Halejian posted her first career double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
The Crimson will attempt to match its opponents’ athleticism with continued defensive pressure and finding an offensive rhythm.
“[Against Dartmouth] I think we made a lot of errors by rush[ing] and hurry[ing] and the pressure kind of took us off guard and we played a little tight and timid,” Golen said. “Getting ready for this weekend we just have to be ready to face teams that are going to be in our face because we definitely have a ton on our back.”
Christine Clark chipped in 22 points against the Big Green and was the only player from Harvard to record double-digit points in the contest. The junior guard has cracked double-digits in all but one game this season, breaking the 20-point mark in five match-ups.
After putting up eight points and nabbing 10 rebounds, sophomore Temi Fagbenle received her sixth Ivy League Rookie of the Week award on Monday. The forward is the third leading scorer for the team with 11.3 points per game and was just short of a fourth career double-double this weekend.
The Crimson was unable to connect from behind the arc last Saturday, drilling just one three out of 19 total attempts.
While a rally at the end of the second half by Clark and Fagbenle pulled Harvard within six, Dartmouth, which shot just 30.8 percent for the contest, nailed 10 of 11 attempts from the charity stripe to seal the win.
“Again, we’re just hoping to play more solid defense,” Delaney-Smith said. “I get that our emphasis has been on the defensive end and I was quite disappointed and shocked that offense was our trouble at Dartmouth. We found some solutions and hopefully we can keep stressing our defense.”
—Staff writer Cordelia F. Mendez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.