NEW HAVEN--Having never beaten a team in its own home gym can be an intimidating factor for even the Ivy League's front-runner.
The Harvard women's basketball team was up against history--as well as Yale--when it entered Saturday night's game winless in 10 previous attempts at Payne Whitney Gym.
It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty, but the Crimson finally overcame the Whitney jinx and the Elis with a 60-59 thriller.
Harvard Coach Kathy Delaney Smith summed it up best: "We stole one on the road."
The Crimson was lead by Sarah Duncan, who shot 60 percent from the field and was a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line, clinched the victory with a pair of foul shots with 37 seconds remaining in the contest. The junior finished the game with 28 points-the third highest single-game point total in Harvard history.
"The offense was working a lot smoother today," Duncan said, "and they usually had someone shorter on me so that I was getting open for the jumper."
The victory is the ninth consecutive Ivy win for Harvard (13-3, 5-0 Ivy) since its 86-77 loss to Yale last year, and kept the Crimson on top of the Ivy League standings. The Bulldogs' record dropped to 8-9 overall, 2-4 Ivy.
Despite playing without Captain and center Sue Patton--Yale's leading rebounder who is out for the season with a knee injury--the Bulldogs maintained a tremendous edge on the boards throughout the game. Yale plucked 49 rebounds to the Crimson's 34.
Yale's advantage on the boards was evident early on when Yale sophomore forward Tonya Lawrence scored the first four points of the game off the offensive glass.
When Harvard was unable to get many second shots on offense, it appeared history would repeat itself. The Bulldogs started hitting from the outside. Forward Randi Meberg's 15-foot jumper and sophomore Paula Kenefick's three-point shot put the home team up 17-10 halfway through the first half, the biggest lead either team, would enjoy throughout the entire contest.
However, Harvard's defensive pressure forced Yale into several turnovers, and the Crimson pulled to within two at the half, 26-24. The Bulldogs turned the ball over 20 times in the game, including six by point guard Anne Peacock.