Forget about trying to gain an NCAA tournament bid. Don't worry about capturing the Ivy League title.
The Harvard women's basketball team thought it had made it past the toughest portion of its schedule, dropping three of its first four contests to powerhouse schools. But after losing to Hartford, 74-63, at Briggs Cage yesterday, the Crimson (1-4 overall) needs to learn how to win again.
"This was one of the most disappointing games in my career," Harvard Coach Kathy Delaney Smith said. "There was a total lack of mental preparation for the game."
The Crimson was outplayed from start to finish, falling behind early after a series of errant passes led to a 10-2 Hartford advantage. With 13 minutes left in the first half, Harvard found itself trailing 19-6, and although the Crimson managed to cut the lead to eight by halftime, it never really found its rhythm.
Harvard was out of sync on offense, hovering around the ball and forcing the play into the crowded paint. Hartford, on the other hand, played nearly flawless basketball, committing only 14 turnovers. The Hawks spread their offense out, moving the ball well around the perimeter and making solid entry passes to forwards posting down low.
On defense, the Crimson actually outrebounded Hartford, 34-32. But statistics don't tell the real story. Without the services of injured forward Betsy Odita, Harvard suffered on the offensive boards. The Hawks boxed out extremely well and limitedHarvard to few second chances.
"I think that Hartford deserves a lot ofcredit," Smith said. "They were willing to gut itout defensively--diving for loose balls. I'd besurprised if I saw 10 minutes of that from ourteam."
Harvard came out strong in the second half,outscoring Hartford, 11-2, to grab a 37-36 lead.But the Crimson hit only five field goals theentire half, and Hartford turned its game up anotch. The Hawks played tenacious defense and shotat a 52 percent clip after intermission.
With 3:16 remaining, the Hawks' Lisa Smithnailed a three-pointer to put Hartford up, 63-55.Forty seconds later, the junior guard iced thegame with another trey. Smith scored all of her 14points in the second half, igniting the Hawks'offense.
"This was the best I've seen our offense play,"Smith said. "On defense, we did not want to letthem shoot the three-pointer. That's what we werestressing."
Harvard was characteristically potent fromthree-point range, connecting on 5-of-9 frombehind the arc. But tenacious Hartford defense andan unfriendly rim hampered the Crimson offensedown the stretch.
Harvard called four timeouts in the final threeminutes of play, but the breaks in action onlyprolonged the agony in a game that was already outof reach.
"Concentration, effort, and intensity--thosethings were lacking," junior guard Maura Healysaid. "We didn't shoot well--foul shots, layups.Any body can beat you when you fail in thosedepartments."
Hawks, 74-63 at Briggs Cage
Hartford 34-40--74HARVARD 26-37--63