Women's Basketball Advances to Second Round of WNIT
After making history last year by becoming the first Ivy team to record a victory in the WNIT, the Harvard women’s basketball team wasn’t satisfied.
On Thursday night at Chase Family Arena, the Crimson (21-8, 11-3 Ivy), saved by a clutch performance from senior Elle Hagedorn, survived a flurry of turnovers and poor three-point shooting to best Hartford (21-12, 10-6 American East), 61-57.
“We’re thrilled to win,” Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “We started our season by scrimmaging them, so we knew what kind of battle it was going to be, and our teams are similar in so many ways, and it was exactly the kind of game I expected it to be. I’m thrilled to get out of here with a win, because I think [Hawks coach] Jen [Rizzotti] does a great job. I think Hartford’s a great program, and they’re a tough, physical team.”
With 1:15 remaining in the game, a 6-0 run had given the Crimson an eight point lead over the Hawks. But Hartford wasn’t close to giving up. Forward Christie Michals grabbed a cross-court pass from her teammate, stepped behind the line, and sunk a three.
Rutzen then attempted to inbound the ball, but guard Amber Bepko intercepted the pass. After a Hawks timeout, guard Shanise Bultron inbounded to Michals, who pivoted, looked around for an open teammate, then pulled up for a long trey, prompting a Crimson timeout.
On the next possession, Hagedorn grabbed the rebound off her own missed trey and tossed in a layup to extend the lead to four. Rutzen redeemed herself on the next play, stealing an inbounds pass to hang on for the win.
“I think we’ve really been playing our best basketball here at the end of the season, so we felt really ready going into the game tonight, on a winning streak and not ready for the season to be over,” senior forward Victoria Lippert said. “So we just really put it together and grinded out the win tonight.”
Harvard struggled to inbound the ball during the entire game, as Hartford employed a full-court press and tough man-to-man defense to force 21 turnovers, 13 of which came in the first half.
“Their gameplan was to take the point guard out of the system,” Delaney-Smith said. “They took 14, 15 seconds off the shot clock almost every possession—not a lot of teams do that to us because I can have any number of guards bring the ball up, but I give credit to Hartford. I thought their gameplan was good, and it did take us out of our rhythm a little bit.”
Both teams grappled to find offensive momentum in the first half, with each shooting around 33 percent to start the game. The Hawks took a hit to their offensive output when forward Katie Roth, who recorded Hartford’s first three buckets, went down on the court five minutes into the game. She would sit out the remainder of the contest.
“Sometimes shots don’t fall, and that’s how it kind of was in the first half,” Lippert said. “We don’t let that bother us, it’s really all about defense and keeping up our defensive intensity, and we know that we’re going to hit the shots. We have so many offensive weapons, so I think we were able to hit more in the second half down the line when it really mattered. I think that’s what got us the win.”
The first half became a contest of strengths, as the teams traded hotly contested shots. The Crimson created a four-point lead with a put-back from senior forward Victoria Lippert, the largest lead of the first half, but the Hawks had an answer to every shot. Hartford closed the half with a 6-2 run, working off treys from Bultron and Michals to enter the locker room with a two-point lead.
Harvard came out of the break with a hot hand, beginning the half with a 8-1 run. Lippert, after recording double figures in the last three games, put up 13 points in the second half to help the visitors take the lead with 7:50 left, an advantage Harvard would not relinquish.
Junior guard Christine Clark, following up on her 22-point performance against Cornell to secure the WNIT bid, recorded her sixth career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“I think that’s Vic and I’s roles on the team, to be those leaders in those categories,” Clark said. “Our teammates do a tremendous job of getting us the ball, especially in crunch situation, so everything goes towards our teammates, not towards us."
—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @linsamnity.