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Wanted: anyone who knows how to stop the Harvard women's basketball team.
Quakers and Tigers need not apply.
After a week during which several of the Crimson players were sidelined due to illness, Harvard (17-6, 11-0 Ivy) still managed to defeat Penn (6-16, 2-8), 70-60, and Princeton (), 79-34.
Apparently, not even the flu can stop the Crimson.
"[A lot of our players] were sick last week," co-captain Jessica Gelman said. "We had a lot of adversity...and we got through it."
In the process Harvard also set a new record for consecutive Ivy League victories with 23 (and counting). The Crimson is just three victories away from becoming the first Ivy League team in history to finish a season undefeated in league play.
The weekend began in fine fashion for Harvard with a 45-point dismantling of Princeton. The stats tell the entire story.
In the first half, Harvard shot a stunning 59 percent from the floor, whereas Princeton made only seven buckets. The Crimson opened up a 21-point lead within the first 14 minutes of the game and held a 48-18 advantage at halftime.
Things got worse for the Tigers following the intermission. Princeton had a pathetic 23 percent shooting effort in the second period.
Meanwhile, Harvard converted 93 percent of its free throws in the second half, and outrebounded Princeton 44-27 for the game. A relentless defensive effort by the Crimson also forced the Tigers into 29 costly turnovers--costly because Harvard converted those mistakes into 37 points at its own offensive end.
"We take a lot of pride in our defense," Gelman said. "We get a lot of steals and fast breaks that lead to easy baskets."
The Harvard attack was led by Gelman and junior forward Allison Feaster. Feaster led all scorers with 22 points, pulled down nine rebounds and had five steals.
Gelman scored 12 points, dished out eight assists and hauled in six rebounds.
Co-captain Kelly Black also turned in a fine effort for the Crimson with eight points and three rebounds. Juniors Alison Seanor and Megan Basil each chipped in seven points and two steals.
The next evening against the Quakers things did not go as smoothly for the Crimson. The end result, however, was no different.
Harvard did not shoot as well against Penn as it did the previous night against Princeton. As a result, the Crimson was unable to shake the pesky Quakers until the very end of the contest.
But during those crucial final minutes, Gelman and junior guard Sarah Brandt connected on clutch baskets to put the game away.
Brandt came off of the bench to score eight points, including two key three-pointers. She also added six rebounds and two assists.
"Sarah Brandt stepped up for us down the stretch," Gelman said. "She had a really nice game."
Gelman turned in another fantastic performance, leading the way for Harvard with 22 points, three assists and three rebounds. She was also a perfect 10-for-10 from the charity stripe.
Feaster had a tremendous night on the boards, recording 15 rebounds. She also found time to score 18 points, hand out four assists and steal four Quaker passes.
Black improved on her performance against Princeton by netting 12 points along with five rebounds against Penn. Sophomore Rose Janowski chipped in seven points off the bench.
The biggest negative for Harvard coming out of this weekend was its three-point shooting. The Crimson shot a meager 15 percent from downtown in both games combined.
Harvard now faces its most important weekend of the season with games against Yale and Brown on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively.
The Crimson can clinch a share of the Ivy League title with a victory on Friday. A Harvard win over Yale coupled with a Dartmouth defeat of Brown would give the title to Harvard alone. However, it is likely that Brown will defeat Dartmouth on Friday night setting up a championship showdown the following evening.
All of this may seem like pressure that is being administered to the Crimson, but these players wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's fun to be in the title chase and to have it come down to the last weekend," Gelman said. "I'm pumped!"
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