The Harvard women's basketball team extended its Ivy League winning streak to 18 games this weekend with convincing victories over Brown and Yale.
Harvard (11-6, 5-0 Ivy) continues to sit alone atop the Ivy standings and is the only team in the Ancient Eight which remains unbeaten in league play.
On Friday night the Crimson traveled to Providence hoping to rebound from a Monday night loss to Lehigh. Harvard came away with an 82-63 win which dropped the Bears out of second place in the Ivies.
"We were very disappointed after the loss to Lehigh," forward Allison Feaster said. "We wanted to send a message [this weekend]."
The message was received...loud and clear.
It was an offensive battle in the first half as both teams came out hot and shot over 44 percent from the field. Harvard clung to a three point lead at the half, 36-33.
In the second period, however, the Crimson used a stifling defense to shut down a Brown attack that featured two of the top scorers in the Ivy League. Meanwhile on the offensive end, Harvard improved on its first half effort and blew the game wide open.
The Crimson shot a whopping 52.6 percent from the field in the second half, including three of nine from the three point line while every player scored. Brown only managed to hit nine shots in the final period and converted none of their nine attempts from downtown.
Harvard's attack was led by Feaster. The junior juggernaut poured in 30 points and ripped down 14 rebounds. Feaster, the Ivy League's second leading scorer, converted chances from the paint and beyond, connecting on four treys.
Co-captain Jessica Gelman also turned in an impressive performance, recording a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists. The sophomores also had key contributions to Harvard's effort as Suize Miller and Rose Janowski chipped in nine and seven points respectively, and had six rebounds each.
The following evening at New Haven, the Crimson could have easily experienced a letdown. Fortunately, this team doesn't seem to know the meaning of that term.
Harvard started the game against Yale shooting better than it had the previous night. The Crimson used a 21-6 run to build a 25-point halftime lead.
All this offensive production came without Feaster who suffered an early scare. The forward left the game in the first minute with a badly sprained ankle and did not return. She could miss some practice time, but the resilient Feaster fully expects to play this weekend.
With its leading scorer sidelined, Harvard had to look to other players for production. Gelman stepped her game up once again to lead the way with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists. Co-captain Kelly Black and junior guard Megan Basil chipped in eight points apiece.
The most pleasant surprise for Harvard, however, came from a most unlikely source. Freshman Laela Sturdy turned in a solid performance in relief of Feaster scoring a career-high 13 points and adding four rebounds. The forward from Cooper City, Florida was three of four from behind the three-point arc and perfect from the charity stripe.
"Laela is a typical Harvard forward," Feaster said. "She can post up or shoot threes. It shows that our bench is very talented."
In the second half, Harvard protected its lead and used another outstanding team defensive effort to secure a 79-59 victory over the Elis. Yale (5-13, 1-5) is now competing with Columbia for the rights to occupy the cellar of the Ivy League standings.
The victories over Brown and Yale cap a long stretch of road games for Harvard. The Crimson has played 12 of its last 13 games on the road, a string of contests which dates back to December 6. Harvard was 9-4 during that period.
The Crimson now returns to the friendly confines of Lavietes Pavilion for seven of its last nine games. This weekend the defending Ivy League champions will host the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton on Friday and Saturday evening, respectively. Both games tip-off at 6 p.m.