In front of the crowd at Jadwin Gymnasium, Harvard women’s basketball dropped an early lead to Princeton on Saturday night and fell in the Tigers’ territory for the fourth consecutive year.
The home team took advantage of the Crimson’s (13-8, 4-3 Ivy) inability to maintain momentum, which led to Harvard’s second-straight loss of the weekend, 67-51. Suffering from a high number of turnovers, the team could not push past the Tigers and fell to third place in the Ivy League standings behind Princeton (16-5, 7-0) and Penn.
“We took great shots and they didn’t fall for us,” Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “I don’t have any criticism for [our team]. I thought we played hard, I thought we played confidently. I guess Princeton, because of their history, has more confidence than we do.”
With twelve minutes to go in the first half, the Tigers stepped on the gas to overtake Harvard. Leading the rush, guard Niveen Rasheed broke from Harvard’s defense to capitalize on a fast-break opportunity. The Crimson then coughed up the ball twice, opening the door for Princeton guards Blake Dietrick and Michelle Miller to sink four treys in quick succession. In a minute and a half, the Tigers went on a 14-2 run that gave them a seven-point lead, one that they would keep for the rest of the game.
“There are shifts in momentum in every game,” Delaney-Smith said. “To have a seven point lead, then tie it up, and stay close for a while, that’s normal basketball. I don’t think there was any overwhelming factor [as to] why that happened.”
Harvard turnovers thwarted what should have been strong drives for the team all night. The Crimson lost the ball 23 times, almost twice the number of carries that Princeton surrendered. The team’s twelve fouls further burdened its momentum, undercutting Harvard’s efforts.
“Princeton is the best team in the league at capitalizing on mistakes and turning them into baskets,” Delaney-Smith said. “They’re really good at capitalizing on turnovers.”
The visiting squad stayed on the Tigers’ heels until the end of the first half, cutting Princeton’s lead to four points. With one minute remaining, the Tigers made two free throws and followed up on a turnover for a lay-up, closing out the half eight points up on the Crimson.
“We felt we played them well for the most part and discussed adjustments [at halftime that] we needed to make in the second half,” junior guard Christine Clark said. “We were confident if we made those adjustments we would win.”
But Harvard continued to forfeit drives to turnovers, recording 10 in the second half while Princeton pulled ahead with consistent scoring. The Crimson found itself trailing by 18 points with seven minutes remaining in the game, its largest deficit. A six-two run begun by sophomore forward Temi Fagbenle with 6:24 remaining allowed Harvard to narrow the Tiger’s lead to 16 points. Christine Clark tallied the final points for the Crimson and the team finished both halves with the same margin of deficit.
Harvard took an early lead over Princeton with consistent drives to the net. Clark opened the scoring at the minute mark, followed quickly by a lay-up by senior forward Victoria Lippert, the Crimson’s top scorer for the game. Two more buckets and two free throws gave Harvard a six-point advantage.
“We were confident,” Delaney-Smith said. “I think we were well prepared. We kept the discipline [after] dropping Penn the night before. I loved how we started, I think we started strong.”
The Crimson was in foul trouble all night, notching 20 fouls to send the Tigers to the charity stripe 21 times. Although Harvard went a perfect six for six on free throws, Princeton outdid the Crimson by sheer number of trips to the line.
Lippert, Fagbenle, and sophomore forward Erin McDonnell led Harvard offensively, netting 13, 10, and 9 points—McDonnell’s career high—respectively. Rasheed joined Dietrick in double figures, chipping in a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Co-captain Miriam Rutzen supported the Crimson with good returns on rebounds, pulling down eight boards.
The Tigers won the game on three pointers, an aspect of play that Harvard couldn’t get going. Dietrick went five for nine from downtown, while the Crimson only converted on three of 13 attempts. Despite not starting the game, Dietrick was on the court for 30 minutes and led Princeton scoring with a career high 19 points. Headed by Dietrick, the Tiger bench contributed 35 points to the 19 put up by Harvard’s reserves.