After cutting an early 11-point deficit to two at the half, the Harvard women’s basketball team rolled over Brown (7-11, 1-3 Ivy), 68-58, to sweep its first Ivy League road trip on Saturday at the Pizzitola Sports Center. The Crimson hadn’t beaten both Yale and Brown on the road in three years.
Harvard (12-6, 3-1 Ivy) was bolstered by a combined 33 points from backcourt pair Christine Clark and Victoria Lippert and a near double-double from sophomore forward Temi Fagbenle, who chipped in 14 points and nine rebounds of her own, in addition to collecting a team-high four steals. Fagbenle led the effort on the glass throughout the game, as no player from the Bears was able to grab more than four boards of their own.
“We can always count on [Fagbenle] to go out and give us the best game,” sophomore guard Ali Curtis said. “It’s great playing with her. I love it.”
The first five minutes saw the two teams knot the score at 11 before a layup from Brown junior guard Lauren Clarke gave the Bears a lead they would hold until the 1:52 mark in the first half. Clarke was the leading scorer for the night, netting 20 points, including 12 from behind the arc on 50 percent three-point shooting. Clarke was followed by guard Sophie Bikofsky as the only member of the team to break double digits in points scored, with 13 on the night.
Brown co-captain Sheila Dixon, the team’s second leading scorer at 11.9 points per contest, was held to just two points on 1-for-9 shooting. Overall, the Bears shot 19-for-53 from the floor, a 36 percent clip.
After Brown forward Jordin Juker sunk two from the charity strip and put her team up 28-17 with 8:08 to go in the first frame, Harvard junior Elise Gordon took a handoff from Clark and drove to the bucket for a layup that spurred a scoring effort, as senior Elle Hagedorn drilled a three to tie the score at 33. The Crimson entered the locker room down by 2, 35-33, after a quick layup from Bikofsky put the Bears back on top.
Returning to the floor in the second stanza, Lippert sunk an early three to give Harvard its first lead since the first minute of the game. Two jumpers from Curtis put the Crimson on top, 40-37, with over 17 minutes to play. From there, Harvard would never trail again.
“I think people who were in the final minutes did a really good job defensively,” Curtis said. “We got good offense off of our defensive pressure. We picked up the pressure and put Brown back on their heels. I think that we just had the mentality of ‘we have to win this game, we’re not going to lose,’ and I think that those people coming into and out of the game were doing a great job of that.”
Fagbenle notched 10 of her points and six rebounds in the second half. The forward, who put up a career-high 20 points against Yale on Friday night, has been the team’s leading rebounder in eight of the last nine games.
The Crimson squad hit 12 free throws in a half where its lead was as large as 14 with under a minute remaining. The team’s final 11 points were entirely off of foul shots. Through the game, Harvard shot 14-for-21 from the charity stripe.
“Brown was down and they knew they had to foul,” Curtis said. “I think our team did a good job of taking care of the ball, being strong, allowing it to foul and knocking down the free throws. It comes down to the very end of the game. We practice free throws in practice, and that’s our job. We have to do that.”
It was another strong night for Harvard’s bench players. The four women who hit the floor off the bench combined for 15 points. The night before, at Yale, five non-starters pitched in 24 total.
“In practice we don’t really have the first string-second string,” Gordon said. “It’s the starters, and then everybody else is working just as hard too. As hard as you work, you’re making your teammates better too. We all make each other better in practice, and it only helps us to make us better in the games and on the court.”
—Staff writer Cordelia F. Mendez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CrimsonCordelia.