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Road-Weary: W. Hoops Eliminated

By Jamal K. Greene, Crimson Staff Writer

The sun has finally set on the Harvard women's basketball dynasty.

With a pair of losses at Penn and Princeton this weekend, Harvard (8-14, 5-6 Ivy) was eliminated from the Ivy League title race, signaling the official realization of a quasi-predetermined fate--the end of the Crimson's three-year hold on the Ancient Eight crown.

The fatal blow came Saturday night, when the front-running Tigers (14-9, 9-2) won a first-to-50 contest, 51-48, in double overtime. Freshman Katie Gates, whose 30-foot buzzer-beater vanquished Dartmouth earlier this season, launched a 50-foot prayer at the end of the second overtime session, but the shot clanged off the side of the rim.

Harvard's gutsy effort against Princeton came on the heels of a disappointing 84-67 loss to Penn (10-13, 6-5) on Friday night. Quaker junior guard Mandy West (27 points) and sophomore forward Diana Caramanico (26 points, 13 rebounds) combined for 36 of Penn's 55 second-half points, as the Crimson came apart at the seams after an even first half.

Princeton 51, Harvard 48 (2OT)

The last time the Crimson women failed to average a point per minute of basketball was during its 3-22 1983-84 campaign, in Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith's second year at the helm.

The fact that Delaney-Smith is happy with her team's play speaks volumes about the pace of Princeton basketball. The Tiger women, who share the methodical modus operandi of their men's team, allow just 55.3 points-per-game, second in the nation.

"I'm proud of our effort," Delaney-Smith said. "I'm proud of everything we brought on the floor. However, we're just not putting the ball in the basket. It was an ugly offensive game by both teams."

The two teams shot a combined 32.0 percent from the floor in a game plagued by re-directed shots, airballs and 40 turnovers, most of which seemed to come off of tipped passes. The game reached its offensive nadir in the first overtime session, in which a total of four points were scored.

"They didn't play great defense," said freshman point guard Jen Monti. "I think we beat ourselves in a lot of cases. Our shooting was not great and we threw the ball away a bunch of times."

When Princeton took a 44-42 lead with 2:32 to go in the first overtime, that was the end of the scoring until Monti lined home a runner from the foul line with 4.2 seconds left.

Monti's shot, her first make in five overtime attempts, represented Harvard's first points since 3:29 of regulation, a stretch of 8:25.

"They were pretty focused on Rose," said Monti, who took 14 shots in the game, making four. "They doubled on the post, and sometimes tripled, but that made it easier for the guards. I was open more than I'm used to."

In a busier second overtime, a three-pointer by junior Kate Thirolf opened a 51-45 lead for the hosts with 1:05 to play. Monti answered on the other end with 44.9 left, hitting a high-arcing trey from the right corner.

Princeton shaved 20 seconds off the clock before Thirolf attempted another three. The shot missed the rim and landed in the arms of Harvard senior Rose Janowski, who was immediately tied up to force a jump ball with 19.6 seconds to go.

The possession arrow favored the Tigers, so they retained possession and won themselves a new shot clock. Harvard junior Courtney Egelhoff fouled junior guard Maggie Langlas but Langlas, an 84-percent free throw shooter, missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Egelhoff hauled in the carom off the front of the rim and got it to Monti, who found senior Sarah Russell behind the three-point arc, just right of the top of the key. The last time Harvard visited Princeton, when the Tigers emerged victorious and snapped the Crimson's 29-game Ivy League winning streak, Russell had a chance to win the game on a three-pointer from the same spot. She was wide open and her shot seemed on line, but it found only the back of the rim.

This time she had a hand in her face, but the shot looked equally perfect during its flight. Again, however, it sailed just long of its mark.

The Crimson got one more chance in the waning seconds when Gates corralled the rebound off a missed free throw by sophomore guard Jessica Munson, but her shot from beyond half court landed on the right side of the rim.

After taking a two-point lead into the locker rooms, Princeton's advantage ballooned to eight before Harvard came back. Egelhoff, whose eight first-half points paced both teams, led a meticulous drive towards parity.

Her turnaround in the lane brought the Crimson within six. She followed with a lay-in from the right post off a feed from Janowski to make the score 35-31.

Offense, not unlike the whooping cough, is contagious. The two teams traded baskets twice before an Egelhoff three knotted the score at 40 with 5:32 left. Egelhoff finished with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

Harvard had a chance to win at the end of regulation, as it had the ball with 19.2 seconds to go. Monti started a drive with about nine seconds on the clock, penetrated up the left side of the lane and hoisted a scoop shot, but it rolled off the back of the rim. The rebound barely escaped Russell's grasp.

"We didn't feel their guards were terribly quick, so I felt like if I isolated I could get off a good shot," Monti said. "And even if I miss, we have good rebounding position."

Monti's miss exemplified an evening of near-misses for the Crimson. Although Harvard scored just 48 points, it was not for lack of chances.

"I think Princeton's a decent defensive team, and I think their game plan against us was good, but players that they leave open need to hit their shots," Delaney-Smith said. "We had every chance in the world and more to win this game, but we just didn't put the ball in the basket."

Harvard's last double-overtime game before Saturday was a 72-71 loss to Bentley College on Dec. 2, 1978.

Penn 84, Harvard 67

Had he seen the Crimson's second-half performance in his native Philadelphia, Rocky would not have been proud.

After a see-sawing, turnover-ridden first half, the Quakers slowly but surely put the Crimson to bed in the second, outscoring Harvard 55-38 after the intermission.

The Crimson held a 27-16 first-half rebounding edge, but was out-rebounded in the game, 46-43. West and Caramanico, both locks for First-Team All Ivy, gutted the Crimson defense. West penetrated with ease at times and Caramanico pulled down 10 second-half rebounds, getting most of her 20 points on the interior.

"I don't know why last night happened, but it is one of the most disappointing losses I've ever had as a coach," Delaney-Smith said. "There's no excuse for how tight they were or how scared they were. I felt at the end they had no heart."

Harvard actually held a three-point advantage well into the second half, when Suzie Miller stole the ball near midcourt and converted an easy lay-up to put the Crimson up 40-37 at the 13:54 mark.

But then West took over. First she dribbled unobstructed from the left wing across the lane for a baseline lay-in. Then she nailed a spot-up three-pointer from the top of the key. For her next performance, she hit a jumper in the lane off a Penn break.

West's seven unanswered points came in a span of 36 seconds and gave Penn a four-point advantage. Harvard never held another lead.

With around eight minutes to go, it was as if West tagged partner Caramanico to apply the final pin. The Ivy Player of the Year candidate terrorized the Crimson on the boards and used her long arms to loft foul line jumpers over the Harvard frontcourt.

A Caramanico turnaround in the lane gave Penn its first double-digit lead, 66-56, with 3:09 to play. In boxing lingo, it was a standing eight.

She delivered the TKO when two of her 10 free throw makes gave the Quakers a 16-point advantage with 1:06 left.

"Caramanico wasn't getting her points in their offense," Delaney-Smith said. "She got them on the boards, and she went to the foul line. I didn't like that she picked up so many loose balls, and I don't like that we had to foul her at the end of the game, but other than that I thought defensively we did what we wanted to do. She's that good."

Caramanico scored her 1,000th career point in the first half, in which the Crimson held her to six.

"I'd like to think that I wasn't nervous in the first half about scoring my 1,000th point, but I think I might have been a little nervous," Caramanico said. "I was more tired in the first half than I was in the second, and I'm not really sure why. It might have just been emotionally draining. Afterwards I just settled down and looked for the gaps in their defense that I could hit."

Janowski led the Crimson with 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting, but the Harvard guards repeatedly had difficulty getting her the ball. Several of Harvard's 20 turnovers were passes targeted at Janowski.

"Our inside players were open every single offensive possession," Delaney-Smith said. "If you are so tight that it takes you three seconds to even look at your low post, then you're unable to make the pass, I can't explain that."

Penn's victory broke a 10-game Harvard win streak over the Quakers dating back to the 1993-94 season.

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