It seemed as though a game that the Harvard women’s basketball team had once led by double digits was slipping away, when Brown guard Sheila Dixon grabbed an offensive board off of a missed three and sunk a trey to whittle the lead down to two.
But junior guard Christine Clark had other ideas. In the final 30 seconds, Clark went five-for-six from the line to defend the Crimson’s home territory, a court on which Harvard (15-8, 6-3 Ivy) has yet to lose this season.
Sharp shooting from senior forward Victoria Lippert and clutch rebounding down the stretch on Friday night prevented the Bears (8-16, 2-8) from snatching the Crimson’s 77-71 victory, despite Brown’s best efforts to pull out an upset.
“I thought that it was a great team win at the end, we really came together,” Clark said. “People started taking care of the ball, we started getting defensive stops when we needed to, and it shouldn’t have been that close, but I’m glad that we pulled out the win.”
Lippert notched the first four points for Harvard and never looked back. The senior tallied 14 points in the first half alone and finished with a season-high 24 points on 10-for-20 shooting, including three from behind the arc, putting her in second place in Harvard history for career three-pointers made behind Erin Maher ’93.
“[Lippert is] one of the most tried-and-true consistent players,” coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “She’s playing like a senior, she’s playing like a senior star, and where maybe she was an offensive player throughout her career, I think her defense and rebounding have evolved to match her offense this year.”
After entering halftime with the score knotted at 37, the Crimson wasted no time in putting space between itself and the Bears. Lippert stole the ball on Brown’s first possession and drove it down the court to give Harvard its first lead since the 4:11 mark in the first half.
A few minutes and two three-pointers from the senior later, Harvard pushed its lead to 12, but turnovers on missed passes and fouls cut the advantage down, as the Crimson surpassed the foul limit with nearly six minutes to play.
“We underperformed,” Delaney-Smith said. “I can’t get this team to put together a whole game to their capabilities and I haven’t had a better team in practice. I think this team does a great job in practice, I don’t understand why we can’t do the same things in a game. I respect their work, but we make mistakes in games, and in every game, there seems to be something slightly different. I’m always slightly caught off-guard by what’s going to show up.”
Bears guard Sophie Bikofsky led Brown’s multi-faceted attack, which featured four different players in double figures, putting up 19 points against a team that she once considered joining.
“They’re all dangerous,” Delaney-Smith said. “They have a kid from Newton that wanted to come here, and that’s Sophie Bikofsky, who had a great game, did a terrific job…. I expected Brown to [play this well], but I expected us to play better.”
The Bears jumped out to a quick 8-4 lead, but Harvard kept pace with Brown, trading jumpers, and the margin between the teams never surpassed four points in the first half. Although the Crimson pulled down nearly three times as many boards as the visiting team and held a 12-0 second-chance point advantage, the team coughed the ball up 11 times to a stingy Bears defense, preventing any substantial lead from forming.
“I think that Brown—wherever we play them—it’s always a challenge,” Clark said. “They come in with a very strong underdog attitude, and so they really play like they have nothing to lose. This is actually the first time, in my time here, that we’ve swept them in Ivy League play.”
Both teams rained in shots from downtown, with the Bears attempting treys 18 times and the Crimson tossing up 25 attempts, tying its most for the season, a product of Brown’s interior defense.
“They literally said that they did not want to defend any of our forwards in the paint, particularly [sophomore forward] Temi [Fagbenle], so if you looked at them, they had sagging man-to-man defense,” Delaney-Smith said. “I think there was a zone occasionally, but it was all in the paint, so they gave us threes, 15-footers, 18-footers, and that’s not a bad shot for us.”
Fagbenle and Clark joined Lippert in double figures for the Crimson, putting up 17 and 16 points, respectively.
—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @linsamnity.