Women's Basketball Defeats Cornell, Wraps Up WNIT Bid
When the clock struck 0 on Saturday night in Ithaca, N.Y., the Harvard women’s basketball team found itself in sole possession of second place in the Ivy League.
As a result of a 66-56 victory at Cornell (13-15, 5-9 Ivy) and Penn’s loss to Yale, the Crimson was guaranteed a conference record at least equal to the Quakers and thus assured a bid to the WNIT tournament.
Harvard (19-8, 10-3 Ivy) was led by a strong inside performance from sophomore forward Temi Fagbenle who earned her second straight double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Fagbenle displayed solid offensive efficiency, finishing 7-for-10 from the field and grabbing three offensive boards.
“[Fagbenle] was really big down the stretch defensively,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “When Cornell was staging a comeback, I thought [she] turned it on and did a great job.”
That small comeback came in the last five minutes, as the Big Red tried to reduce a 13-point deficit, coming within seven.
It was too little too late, however, as the Crimson refused to lose the lead that it had held since a 6-0 start. Harvard jumped out of the gate quickly and never looked back on their way to a 31-17 halftime lead.
Fagbenle’s performance helped the Crimson exert an inside presence, as the team out-rebounded Cornell by a margin of 44-31 and shot 21-for-39 from within the arc.
“We’ve almost out-rebounded everyone we’ve played all year, so that’s an expectation that we have,” Delaney-Smith said. “When [Cornell] was staging their comeback, they went hard to the offensive boards, but we ended up making an adjustment and ended up with the edge.”
Harvard had 16 turnovers in the game, which was fewer their season average of 17.6 but more than Cornell’s eight.
“I think we still have a lot to do when it comes to teamwork,” Fagbenle said. “We know we can do better…. [We can still] improve our execution.”
Junior guard Christine Clark led all scorers with 22 points, tying her high since November, and added six rebounds as well. Many of her points came from the free throw line, where she went 10-for-11.
“[Clark] did a lot of the dirty work,” Delaney-Smith said. “She didn’t force it. She just let it come to her.”
Four of Clark’s points ended a Cornell run with two minutes remaining, as the guard scored back-to-back layups to push Harvard’s lead back up to 11.
Saturday’s game was Senior Night for the Big Red, which will lose four of the team’s top players to graduation. Seniors Taylor Flynn, Clare Fitzpatrick, Spencer Lane, and Kristina Danielak scored 39 of Cornell’s 56 points in their final game in a red uniform.
Flynn paced Cornell with a team-high 21 points. In the last minute, the senior made back-to-back threes to cut the lead down to eight with 41 seconds left.