Princeton’s leading scorer on the season, junior Blake Dietrick, may have notched only two points on the night, but the Tigers (17-6, 8-1 Ivy) found another source of scoring to slip past the Harvard women’s basketball team, 69-64, on Saturday night at Lavietes Pavilion.
Princeton guard Annie Tarakchian came up big when it mattered, hitting back-to-back threes with 10 minutes to go in the second half to give the Tigers a three-point lead. The sophomore was previously only 6-for-29 from downtown this year.
Tarakchian finished the game 3-for-4 from behind the arc and with 15 total points—including the six in less than a minute that gave Princeton control of the game down the closing stretch.
The Crimson (17-7, 7-3) now sits in third place in the Ivy League. The Killer P’s once again proved deadly as the two losses—the first time in over 20 years the team has lost both Ivy games in a home weekend—have dampened Harvard’s hopes for an Ancient Eight title.
For a chance at their first title since 2008, the Crimson will need to win out while hoping for Penn to drop one of its five remaining games and for the now Ivy-leading Tigers to drop two of their final five contests.
Coming off of Friday’s 63-50 defeat at the hands of Penn, co-captain Christine Clark was looking to score early and often against the Tigers. The senior guard scored five of the Crimson’s first seven points on her way to a 14-point first half. Clark finished the game with 23 points, and after this weekend has now moved into 4th place on Harvard’s all-time scoring list with 1,623 points.
Clark and junior forward Temi Fagbenle powered the Crimson offense to an early 15-7 lead for the Crimson in a first half that was marked by big runs for both teams. Princeton took its first lead, 17-15, midway through the first half behind buckets from senior forward Kristen Helmstetter and sophomore forward Alex Wheatley.
Five straight points from senior Jasmine Evans helped the Crimson spark a run of its own, rattling off 11 straight to make it 26-17 and to force a Tiger timeout. The teams entered the locker rooms at halftime with Harvard clinging to a three-point lead over Princeton in a low-scoring first half.
“I am quite shocked that we were off offensively [both tonight and last night],” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “I don’t know why we are struggling to put the ball in the basket…. It was uncharacteristic for us.”
Though the Crimson only shot 36 percent from the field in the first, its defense, especially on Dietrick, was the key to its first half lead. Dietrick entered the game averaging 17.3 points per game, but was 0-for-7 after the first half of action and ended the game 1-for-13 in 38 minutes.
“We had [Dietrick’s] number,” senior guard Melissa Mullins said. “We knew what she wanted to do. Not only do Jasmine and I match up against her on defense, but we also switch a lot on defense. Shutting her down was really a team effort.”
Even with Dietrick continuing to struggle throughout the second half, Princeton was able to rally behind a strong performance from Helmstetter, who finished with 17 points while shooting 50 percent from the field.
After a back-and-forth first 10 minutes of the second half, Tarakchian’s back-to-back three-pointers marked a significant turning point in the game.
As Princeton stretched its lead to 53-48 with eight minutes to go, Mullins went down with an ankle injury and had to limp to the sideline for medical assistance. The senior would check back in after an Evans three and, though she was clearly still hobbled by the injury, hit a nice layup inside to cut the Tiger lead to one.
Mullins was fouled on Harvard’s next possession, and she immediately subbed out after missing both free throws, still limping noticeably.Soon after Mullins went back to the bench with the injury, Fagbenle had to join her on the sideline as she picked up her fifth foul, and Princeton took full advantage of the situation as it pushed its lead back to six with four minutes remaining.
Clark gave the Tigers one last challenge, putting in four straight points to tie the game at 61, but five misses for Harvard in the final two minutes doomed any hope of a comeback.
“We beat them in every single category,” Delaney-Smith said. “In every single category except the foul line, and that was the difference. I am proud of my team, and I am disappointed for them.”
—Staff writer Ty Aderhold can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.