In its final non-conference matchup of the season, the Harvard women’s basketball team will travel to Kingston, R.I. on Sunday to take on the Rhode Island Rams.
Rhode Island (5-9) enters the contest on a three-game losing streak, including a loss to a Providence squad that the Crimson defeated earlier this season. Harvard has bested the Rams in each of their last three meetings.
“I think it’s going to be a good game for us,” senior forward Victoria Lippert said. “We’re continuing to get better and better. We’re practicing, learning, and growing, so I think this game is more about us, and I think that if we play well, we’re going to get the win.”
The Crimson (8-5) enters the matchup coming off a decisive, 85-59 victory over Massachusetts on Wednesday. Harvard never fell behind in the game, amassed its highest scoring total of the year, and gave up its third-smallest point total of the season.
The victory over the Minutewomen snapped a season-high three-game losing streak.
“We were definitely angry after those losses, so we were very motivated to come back and play well,” Lippert said. “I don’t think we played a perfect game against UMass, but I think we were able to execute better and play better defense at some points.”
Junior guard Christine Clark scored her 1,000th career point in the win, a milestone that only 17 players in program history have reached. Clark finished with a team-high 19 points.
Following a 20-point performance in a loss to Southern Methodist, Lippert tallied 17 points against the Minutewomen. Lippert, who has moved into tenth place on the program’s all-time scoring list, has totaled at least 15 points in five of her last seven games.
Clark, Lippert, and sophomore forward Temi Fagbenle have served as the main cogs of the Crimson offense this season, as the trio has accounted for nearly 60 percent of the team’s scoring. Fagbenle was recently named the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week, and she captured both awards just two weeks ago as well.
“[Those three girls] are a lot of fun to play with,” co-captain forward Miriam Rutzen said. “They work hard on both ends of the floor, they’re great scorers, and we love to feed them the ball so they can take it to the hole. As long as they keep doing that, and as long as we keep supporting them and backing them up with offensive rebounds, then we’ll have a great year.”
Senior forward Emma Golen has also emerged as a legitimate three-point threat. Golen ranks first in the Ancient Eight, shooting 53.3 percent from behind the arc.
A wealth of different options has helped Harvard post impressive offensive numbers all year.
The Crimson leads the Ivy League in scoring, with 69.5 points per game, and has also posted a conference-best 45.2 field goal percentage.
The Rams, on the other hand, have struggled to put points on the board. The team has scored more than 60 points only twice this year.
“[This game] is going to be a great opportunity for us to show our defensive grit versus a team we know we can outperform,” Rutzen said. “We don’t want to give them one of their better nights. So if we can hold them below their scoring average, we know we will have proved something.”
A young team, Rhode Island has six freshmen on its roster and only four players who have completed their sophomore years. The Rams are coming off a 94-53 loss to Northeastern, the team’s largest margin of defeat all season.
Rhode Island has employed a balanced attack on offense so far this year, as its top three scorers all average within two points of each other. Freshman guard Tayra Melendez leads the team with 10.6 per game.
Freshman forward Samantha Tabakman has also been an important presence for the Rams in the paint. Tabakman, who has come off the bench for much of the season, puts up 9.1 points per game and averages a team-best 7.9 rebounds.
Sunday’s matchup will conclude the first half of the season for Harvard, and will provide the Crimson with a chance to pick up steam for its next fourteen contests against Ancient Eight foes.
“Every game in the Ivy League counts, and there’s not an opportunity to redeem mistakes once you get into league play,” Rutzen said. “One game can make or break your chances at the NCAA Tournament. I think knowing that and having had an up-and-down non-conference season has prepared us really well for the intensity of the Friday and Saturday game-in, game-out competition to get us to our final goal of Ivy League champions.”