Women's Basketball Snaps Princeton's 33-Game Ivy Win Streak
With a 33-game Ivy League winning streak on the line and down by one with 2:11 remaining, Princeton guard Niveen Rasheed stepped up to the free-throw line. After going 7-of-8 from the charity stripe on the day, Rasheed tossed up the first, which clanked off the backboard. Her second attempt rimmed in and—just like many Tigers’ attempts Friday night—rimmed out.
Although a well-placed inbounds pass allowed Princeton to cut the lead to one with 22 seconds remaining, a clutch performance by senior forward Victoria Lippert and a strong defensive stand ensured that the Tigers wouldn’t find its 34th straight win on Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion.
Behind Lippert, who has now put up double figures in each of her last seven games, the Harvard women’s basketball team (16-8, 7-3 Ivy) withstood a late Princeton surge to remain undefeated at home and beat the Tigers (18-6, 9-1) for the first time in over two years, 58-55.
“I think that throughout the year, we’ve been in a lot of close games,” junior guard Christine Clark said. “That actually played to our favor tonight because we’ve been in this situation before, so we knew that we could pull out the win. I think we had them running scared a little bit.”
After coming out of the half with a four-point lead over Princeton—a situation that the Tigers haven’t found themselves in during Ivy League play since its 2011 matchup against the Crimson—coach Kathy Delaney-Smith was cautious of becoming too confident too quickly against a dangerous Princeton team.
“We’ve had an early 12-point lead on them down at Princeton,” Delaney-Smith said. “That doesn’t even bother them. They have kids that catch and shoot threes and hit big shots, they have great rebounding in Niveen and others, and they are really, really good in the open court.”
Neither team seemed to be able to find any offensive momentum to begin the second half until sophomore guard Ali Curtis netted the first bucket of the half on either side, a triple, after over four minutes had elapsed. In the first 10 minutes of the half, eight of the Tigers’ 10 points came from behind the charity stripe, a sign of Harvard’s early foul trouble.
“I think we should have gotten to the line,” Delaney-Smith said. “They’re a very physical team, I think we have to do a better job of getting ourselves to the line… In the second half, their offense wasn’t doing anything. It was the free-throw line and rebounds.”
The Crimson built a lead as big as seven in the second half with 9:45 remaining, but then the Princeton offense came to life. Fueled by a flurry of offensive rebounds, the Tigers went on a 7-2 run to tie the game for the first time. The teams traded buckets until junior guard Missy Mullins fouled Rasheed as she pulled down her fifth offensive rebound of the game. With Harvard over the limit, the senior went to the line and knocked both down, giving Princeton its first lead since 14:25 in the first half.
“They are a very good offensive team, and I really do think that Niveen is the motor behind it,” Delaney-Smith said. “They’re a very good rebounding team, and Niveen is probably the best rebounder in the league, in every regard. Her second, third, fourth jumps are so quick, so athletic, so when all else fails, she went to town in rebounds.”
But the Crimson had an answer to every run by the Tigers, and Lippert, the Ivy League’s top free-throw shooter, sunk four in succession to give Harvard the lead with 20 seconds left. Princeton inbounded and missed two treys in a row before the buzzer rang.
“She has done that all four years,” Delaney-Smith said. “She is and always has been ice.”
Although Harvard only converted 37.5 percent of its field goals, the Crimson held the Tigers to just 25.8 percent shooting, its lowest of the season. Even while out-rebounding Harvard 47-39, Princeton had tough looks all night and only converted on 16 of 62 attempts.
“We were really wanting to focus on transition defense for this game, because we know that’s where they primarily like to score in their offense,” Lippert said. “They’re not as comfortable in half-court sets.”
Rasheed led the Tigers’ offensive campaign with her 12th double-double of the year, tallying 13 points and 11 boards, while Lippert led the Crimson with 21. Clark also joined the senior in double figures, racking up 14 points.
—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @linsamnity.