Going into this week, the Harvard women's basketball team needed a spark. The Crimson was looking to bounce back from its first three-game losing streak of the season as Ivy League play loomed on the horizon.
With a familiar shooting ace at the helm, Harvard (9-5) found its way back into the win column as it closed out its nonconference slate. Junior Christine Clark led all scorers in Crimson wins over UMass, 85-59, and Rhode Island, 63-56, as she became the 18th women's basketball player in Harvard history to reach 1,000 career points. On Monday, the junior guard received her fifth career Ivy League Player of the Week nod.
Clark arrived at the milestone in an anticlimactic yet fitting fashion Wednesday night at Lavietes Pavillion, sinking two free throws early in the second half to put the Crimson up 21 on UMass. The Tucson, Ariz. native has reached the charity stripe more often than any other Harvard player this season and ranks fifth in the Crimson record book for career free throws made.
"I don't think that she had any idea [as a recruit] that she was going to score a thousand points, but we're not one bit surprised because she can score in so many different ways," Crimson coach Delaney-Smith said." We can post her up, she's a great offensive rebounder, she can shoot the three, and she can go to the basket, so she's really multi-dimensional in her attack. She's an impact player. "
Clark is the fastest Crimson player to reach 1,000 points since Reka Cserny in 2004 and joins senior Victoria Lippert as the only active players on the squad to have passed the milestone. Lippert reached a new milestone of her own Wednesday, scoring 17 points to crack the top ten of Harvard's all-time career scoring list.
"I'm just so honored to be a part of that group," Clark said. "It just makes me feel good about all the hard work that I've put in over the years."
Delaney-Smith can vouch for Clark's hard work.
"There isn't a better competitor in the world…. She'll go through a wall to have you win," Delaney-Smith said of the player known as "Clarky" to teammates and coaches. "She puts in a lot of extra time to do film work and to keep getting better."
Clark started every game her freshman season after choosing Harvard over traditional top programs DuPaul, Kansas State and Arizona State. Delaney-Smith has seen Clark improve on the court throughout her years in Cambridge.
"She's getting better at shooting the three," Delaney-Smith said. "She has a nice midrange game. When she was younger, she would go all the way in. Now, she's developed a beautiful, midrange, very athletic pull-up."
At Rhode Island, Clark recorded a game-high 21 points and shot 8-of-14 from the field. She scored nine of Harvard's last 16 points to help the Crimson put the brakes on a comeback bid from the Rams late in the second half.
"I think it was a great win to pull out [Sunday]," said Clark, who leads all Harvard scorers this season with 16.6 points per game. "I don't think we really played our best game, but I think it does show a lot that we were able to pull out the win even with a lot of areas to improve in. We have so much potential, and I'm really excited for conference play."
The achievement of team-based milestones is now at the top of Clark's to-do list.
"I want to win an Ivy League championship more than anything," Clark said, "and I would want to win some games in the NCAA tournament."
Meanwhile, Delaney-Smith hopes that Clark can perfect her passing game and cut down on turnovers. Clark's role as one of the Crimson's primary ball handlers has tested her playmaking abilities.
With Clark's work ethic, though, encouraging her to put in the hours shouldn't be much of a problem.
"Any coach," Delaney-Smith said, "would love to coach a kid like Clarky."
--Staff writer Michael D. Ledecky can be reached at email@example.com