The women’s basketball team took a page out of the men’s basketball playbook this weekend.
On Sunday afternoon at Lavietes Pavilion, where the Crimson has not lost all season, Harvard (13-6, 4-1 Ivy) squandered a first-half 13-point lead before eking out an overtime win over Cornell (10-9, 2-3 Ivy), 69-60.
“I’m very proud we toughed it out and won,” Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “There were things that happened that I was a little surprised by, and I think our team needs to learn how to extend the lead rather than lose the lead. Unfortunately, that’s been happening too often, and for the kids that we have and the experience that we have and the talent that we have, we have to find the mental fortitude to extend a lead.”
After going 8-for-13 from the charity stripe during regulation, the Crimson rallied during the extra period and sunk all 10 of its free throws, including four from senior forward Victoria Lippert, to pull away from the Big Red.
“It’s all about that pressure free-throw shooting in practice,” Lippert said.
Overtime was dominated by fouls, as 10 of Harvard’s 16 points came from the line, and free throws accounted for all of Cornell’s points except for an unguarded three at the end of the period.
Sophomore forward Erin McDonnell hit a pull-up jumper to give the Crimson the first points in the extra period following a drought that had lasted since there was 1:35 left in regulation. Harvard would not relinquish the lead again.
After two converted free shots by the Big Red’s Allyson DiMagno, McDonnell grabbed an offensive board off her own miss and fed it to Lippert, who tossed in the ball to push Harvard out to a three-point lead. Junior guard Christine Clark then drove in for a layup to give the Crimson some breathing room.
DiMagno, who netted 20 points and 14 rebounds to be the only player on the day with a double-double, scored all but three of the Big Red’s points in overtime and hit two jumpers near the end of the second half to knot the game at 51-all. Harvard struggled all day with stopping the junior, who averages 13.4 points per game.
“That wasn’t the game plan, to let [DiMagno] have that many,” Lippert said. “It’s definitely something that we’re going to correct for next time, pay more attention to her. That’s just too many points and rebounds for somebody to have against us. We’re not too pleased about those stats.”
Delaney-Smith called a timeout immediately after Cornell senior forward Clare Fitzpatrick drove in for a layup to tie the game at 53, but the Big Red, with fouls to give, fouled sophomore forward Temi Fagbenle with 1.6 seconds remaining, and the Crimson couldn’t get a clean inbounds pass in to take a shot with the time remaining, sending the game into overtime.
“[I told them before overtime that] this is our gym,” Delaney-Smith said. “It’s all about defense for five minutes.”
Harvard jumped out to an early 9-2 lead and never trailed in the game. Clark paved the way for the Crimson’s quick beginning, scoring eight of her 15 points in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Crimson dominated inside in the first half, outrebounding Cornell 24-12 and scoring 14 points in the paint to the Big Red’s four.
Cornell went on a 7-3 run to close the first half, and a layup from DiMagno at the beginning of the second half closed the lead to four before Lippert sunk a shot from downtown. The senior broke a four-minute drought with three consecutive baskets to return the lead to double digits after missing all four of her shots in the first half.
“Vic wasn’t playing particularly well in the first half,” Delaney-Smith said. “We were all telling her to catch and shoot some. She’s a senior—she generally doesn’t have to be told that, but I do think that our team is trying to share the ball, move the ball, and get easier shots, and so in her effort to maybe do that, she passed up shots I don’t want her to pass up. I thought she did much better in the second half.”
The Big Red reversed the advantage on Harvard in the second half, pulling down 20 rebounds to Harvard’s 13 and besting the Crimson in points down low as well. Fitzpatrick, who hit the final shot of the half, contributed 13 points to shrink Harvard’s lead.
“They came back off of second chances,” Lippert said. “They were kind of getting more attempts offensively and getting their own rebounds and put backs, and I think that may have contributed to them coming back.”
Lippert recorded 19 points to lead Harvard’s offensive effort while Clark and Fagbenle joined her in double-digits with 15 and 12 points, respectively.
—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @linsamnity.