They had never met. They didn't know what to expect. Now they know.
For the first time, the University of Illinois-Chicago women's basketball team faced Harvard. For the first time, Illinois-Chicago saw Beth Chandler, Sarah Duncan, Heidi Kosh and company. For the first time, the team from the North Star Conference saw a Crimson squad that is characterized by a sense of team effort and intensity.
Last night, Illinois-Chicago fell to Harvard, 86-64, in the first round of the Harvard Invitational at Briggs Cage. Playing like a host who didn't want to be left out of the fun, the Crimson controlled the play and intensity of the game.
The key to the game was defensive intensity," said Harvard guard Hanya Bluestone.
"It takes heart to play defense. This team has a lot of heart," said Crimson Coach Kathy Delaney Smith. "They enjoy their roles...they sincerely care about their teammates doing well."
Harvard (3-1) irritated Illinois-Chicago (0-1) by consistently blocking the Flames' shots. The Crimson limited the Flames to 31 percent shooting fromthe field. The Crimson also had 30 defensiverebounds and established a lot of fast breaks.Both coaches agreed Harvard won the game by itsability to make effective transitions.
"We got a lot of fast breaks," Delaney Smithsaid. "We very rarely set up an offense. They wereprobably faster than we were. However, we playedthe game faster."
The Crimson played an aggresive, fast-pacedoffense. Midway through the first half, Bluestonehad a steal off the Flames. She made a quick passto Kosh, who fed the ball to Duncan for the score.Harvard led, 23-13.
"Bluestone created so many things." DelaneySmith said. "Even when she missed the obviouslay-up, she did something to make it up."
Once again, everyone on the team contributed toHarvard's victory. Forwards Duncan and Jen Mazanecled the team with 18 and 16 points, respectively.Kosh played an outstanding all-around game,scoring 11 points.
Chandler was a rebounding dynamo. She had sevenrebounds in the first seven minutes of the game,completing the first half with 14 of Crimson's 24rebounds. As Flames Coach Francine St. Clair said,"Nobody stopped her."
With two minutes to go in the half, Koshdeflected the Flames' shot, stole the ball andfired it off to Chandler. After missing with herfirst jump shot, Chandler rebounded to make thelay-up for a basket.
Delaney Smith's concern about Harvard's recentlack of rebounding success was mitigated bytonight's game. The Crimson out-reboundedIllinois-Chicago, 50-36.
Chandler attributed her play and the victory tothe intensity of the team. "We were reallyprepared, really psyched," Chandler said. "Thingsfell into place."
"I was focusing on rebounding," she added,"trying to get back on track."