Sophomore forward Temi Fagbenle led the Crimson (11-6, 2-1 Ivy) to a 67-54 win over Yale (6-11, 1-2 Ivy), registering a career-high 20 points in New Haven on Friday. The game was Harvard’s first conference road trip of the season.
After Harvard took an early lead, the Bulldogs looked to lessen the deficit heading into the second half, but the Crimson caught another quick wind and ended the game with a 43.8 shooting percentage. The Yale offense consistently failed to find the basket throughout the match, going 20 for 72. By the end of the first frame, the Bulldogs had put up a low 19.4 shooting percentage.
“We’ve been working really hard,” junior center Elise Gordon said. “We’ve been working on our different defenses, so the fact that we have such a variety of defenses that we can use makes [our opponents] have to counteract, which is definitely to our advantage.”
Fagbenle and Gordon pressured Yale early on in the first frame, scoring several points in the paint after the opening tipoff. Harvard held a double-digit lead for the majority of the period and led the Bulldogs at halftime, 32-20.
“Temi is a great player,” sophomore guard Ali Curtis said. “She’s awesome to play with and I think [at] Yale having 20 points as her career high is a great building block for her, and I think that’s going to motivate her during the rest of the Ivy League games.”
The second period brought tighter competition, with Yale closing the gap to three points in the final 14 minutes. The Crimson defense buckled down and finished the game with a season-high 50 rebounds.
“We had a couple of games where we haven’t been able to overcome adversity, and what we really wanted to focus on was [playing] possession by possession and basically just converting on offense,” Gordon said. “We would make goals for ourselves and just be one play ahead.
Fagbenle chipped in nine rebounds and a steal of her own, while co-captain forward Miriam Rutzen and junior guard Christine Clark had a combined rebound total of 14, registering seven apiece.
“I think Yale especially was a really good team effort,” Curtis said. “I thought during Yale we did a good job of defending the following side against the post. They were playing pretty tough on our guards.”
The Harvard bench showed out with a total of 24 points, while Yale’s bench only registered eight. Rutzen, Curtis, and junior forward Missy Mullens tallied two assists each for the Crimson.
“Our team has so many weapons,” Gordon said. “We’ve got a really deep bench.”
Despite a Bulldogs rally in the second half, exceeding their first-period point total by 14, the Crimson headed to the locker room with a comfortable lead. Harvard held off the Yale second-period run that defeated the Crimson during the 2011-12 season.
“We kept padding it inside, getting inside-out looks, and I think Elise executed really well on a lot of those, as well as a lot of other players that came off the bench and really contributed to the team effort,” Curtis said.
After Fagbenle, Gordon registered the highest number of points at 10, while Curtis and senior guard Elle Hagedorn chipped in nine and eight points, respectively.
Fagbenle recently received her sixth Ivy League Rookie of the Week honor this week. The sophomore has racked in a total of eight Ancient Eight awards on the season. The forward also registered nine rebounds, one assist, one block, and one steal in under 22 minutes.
Yale’s final 27.8 shooting percentage marked the lowest of a Harvard opponent since the Crimson played against TCU in early January. The bulldogs never led Harvard by more than three points during the matchup.
—Staff writer Kelley Guinn McCartor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KGMCrimson.