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For the second time in as many years, the Harvard women's basketball team came up with big buckets when it needed them against New Hampshire. A career-high 32 points by junior Alison Feaster and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch helped the Crimson to a 74-69 win over the Wildcats in Durham, N.H.
The game was knotted at 61 with 4:43 to go before Feaster, who also tallied 11 rebounds, took the game into her own hands. After a layup, Feaster stole the ball on UNH's next possession and popped a three--one of her five threes on the afternoon--to put Harvard up by five.
"I felt we needed a spark, whether it was me or someone else," Feaster said. "It just so happened that I got a couple of baskets to fall."
The baskets by Feaster were a needed boost for the Crimson, because the tie score marked the culmination of a strong comeback by the Wildcats. Harvard had a robust 45-31 lead at halftime before UNH began an almost inevitable surge back into the game.
"UNH is a really good team," Feaster said. "We didn't expect them to fold just because they were down 14 at halftime. It was just a change in momentum."
Whatever the UNH coaching staff told the Wildcats at the half must have been special, because they came out clawing after the break. They were led by the heroics of Sheila Danker, who finished with 30 points.
"In the second half, they were breaking back at us exactly the same way we broke at them in the first half," Gelman said. "We weren't getting the same offensive ball rotation."
"There was definitely a momentum swing," co-captain Kelly Black said. "It's really easy to get caught up in the momentum of the game. [During UNH's comeback] we tried to frantically shoot shots that weren't as good and committed some dumb fouls."
The tie score was as close as the Wildcats would come, however. Junior Alison Seanor followed up Feaster's heroics with a clean steal at halfcourt. Harvard put the game away in the closing seconds when Gelman hit both ends of a one-and-one to put the Crimson up by five.
"Charlie [Feaster] definitely led the charge, but a lot of people stepped up," Gelman said. "It says a lot about the character of the team that they we can pull out a game like that."
The first half saw Harvard play perhaps its best basketball of the season in jumping to the 14-point lead. The Crimson, which led by as many as 19 points in the first frame, emphasized its transition game--getting defensive boards, outletting well and playing an up-tempo style.
"We were getting up the court really well, we were putting a lot of pressure on 'D,' and getting a lot of rebounds," co-captain Jessica Gelman said.
Harvard has a brief history of playing exciting basketball whenever it locks horns with UNH. Although the Wildcats have dominated the series overall, the Crimson pulled out last season's game on a last-second basket by Gelman.
The Harvard victory Saturday is its second straight win against a strong opponent since an embarrassing 37-point loss to Arizona last weekend.
"Our team is clicking more and more every time we play together," Black said. "I finally felt like we were playing well as a team. I haven't felt that way much all season."
The win marks Harvard's third in 18 tries against New Hampshire, and the first back-to-back Crimson victories in the history of the series.
Harvard plays thrice over the break--including a road game against nationally-ranked George Washington--before starting its Ivy League season against Dartmouth January 6.
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