UPDATED: March 18, 2017 at 3:44 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA—It started innocuously.
Just over five minutes into the second quarter Princeton senior guard Vanessa Smith made the second of her two free throws to give the Tigers a 17-16 lead.
Her free throw was the first of 13 Princeton points that went uncontested from the Crimson. Over that span of over five minutes Harvard missed seven shots and coughed up the ball twice.
For a Crimson squad (15-13) that lives beyond the perimeter, the shots just weren’t falling against Princeton (16-12) on Saturday night at the Palestra. Playing for a spot in the Ivy League Championship game, head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith’s squad simply couldn’t get the offense going—they were outscored every quarter of the game and in a tough shooting second quarter only put up five points on 2-of-14 shooting from the field.
“I mean you always credit the defense but at times yes, but at times, no, it wasn’t the defense,” Delaney-Smith said. “It was we just didn’t make our shots.”
The rough shooting ultimately doomed Harvard as a 24-point third quarter extended the Tigers’ lead and gave them the 68-47 win to advance to the championship game of the Ivy League tournament.
What ended as a blowout began as a tenacious defensive effort on both sides. In the first quarter neither team shot over 40 percent from the field and no player other than freshman forward Bella Alarie made more than a single field goal.
Alarie’s five first quarter points and three rebounds was only be a preview of what was to come, however. She finished the night with a game-high 17 points and 16 rebounds.
Fueled by Alarie’s effort in the paint, Princeton took off in the second and third quarters. Going on an 18-2 run at one point, the Crimson struggled to get rebounds or score late in the third—shooting 8-of-17 through that period, the Tigers extended their lead as high as 19.
“The third quarter was terrible, that’s where they stretched it,” Delaney-Smith said. “Our defense played really hard…I thought our team did a great job for the most part except for the early part of the third quarter where they stretched it and those were just fundamental errors, letting them beat us on the drive and letting them get offensive boards and then fouling them.”
Alarie wasn’t the only player with a double-double as junior forward Leslie Robinson also had a standout night for Princeton. She would add another 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers. Despite only shooting 3-of-8 from the field, Robinson went to the line for nine points on 12 free throw attempts.
The two spearheaded Princeton’s effort on the glass—on the game, the Tigers outrebounded Harvard 47 to 35. No Crimson player recorded more than six rebounds.