The 1995-96 edition of the Harvard women's basketball team opened its season last night in an exhibition match-up against Eastern Block power Cassovia.
The touring professional team from Slovakia showed a certain savoir faire shooting the rock, connecting on 62 percent from the field. Although Harvard jumped out to a 11-2 lead early in the first quarter, the uncharacteristically sloppy and sluggish Crimson squad succumbed to the Cassovia's blitzkrieg, 85-64. Harvard's laissez-faire defense essentially handed Cassovia a carte blanche, entitling the Europeans to convert 20-of-29 field goal attempts in the first half.
"For three-quarters of the first half, I don't even know who [my players] were," Harvard coach Kathy Delaney Smith said. "I don't think we've had a practice that bad."
Even the most veteran Harvard players seemed over-matched--like girls among women--probably because they were. With an average age of 25 or better, the Slovakian club man-handled the Crimson, executing its Eurogame-plan to perfection.
"Their style is very European, their picks are unusual, their offensive sets are extremely European," Delaney Smith--an American--said. "In fact, we might steal one or two of them." With the exception of sophomore wunderkind Allison Feaster, who contributed 19 points and 9 rebounds in the losing cause, the Crimson offense was pitiful, turning the ball over 21 times in the first half alone.
Sophomore Karun Grossman was perhaps the only other bright spot in the impotent attack, displaying a certain join as vivre behind the three point arc, knocking down a trey and scoring seven points in five minutes.
"I could not be happier," Delaney Smith said. "I know Karun's a player--and a particularly good shooter--and I was thrilled with [her play]."
Sans douts, the Crimson struggled to generate any points in its half-court motion-offense.
"[The players] need to create from the offense," Delaney Smith said. "They were trying to run the offense like robots instead of penetrating and dishing."
Cassovia was led by Renata Janusova, a 6-4 force majeur who netted 27 points in the winning cause. Vladimira Denaiskova and Tatiana Komarova tallied 20 points apiece; indeed, all three Slovaks exerted serious pressure on both Harvard's defense and the P.A. announcer's election.
Cassovia head coach Ivan "The Terrible" Vostko--the Pat Riley of Slovakia--expressed disclaim for the American style of play.
"It's the same everywhere, with very little variation," Vostko said. "They plan man-to-man and we can run the fast break right by them."
And they did, converting 34 Harvard turnovers into easy lay-up after easy lay-up.
Fortunately for the Crimson, this was only an exhibition. Perhaps the dismal outing can be attributed to the team's new crimson Reeboks. Perhaps it was the relocated bench area. Perhaps it was the renaming of Briggs Cage to Lavietes Pavilion.
Whatever the cause, Harvard must learn from this coup de force and improve its conditioning and offensive production in a half-court set, in order to avoid any deja vu in the future.
Harvard's laissez-faire offense essentially handed Cassovia a carte blanche.