After a tough 93-77 loss last Tuesday to Boston University, Harvard bounced back to take second place in the first annual Fairfield University Shehan Classic in the Arena at Harbor Yard.
The Crimson beat the Stags 68-62 on Saturday to qualify for Sunday’s championship game against Villanova, where Harvard fell to the Wildcats 59-51. Fairfield went on to defeat Quinnipiac 66-61 in the consolation game on Sunday.
Sophomore Hana Peljto was Harvard’s lone representative on the All-Tournament Team. She collected a total of 39 points and 20 rebounds in both games, and shot a total of 14-for-15 from the free-throw line.
“A lot of us thought back to last season when we had a rocky beginning,” sophomore Tricia Tubridy said. “The B.U. loss was a really tough loss for us and that was the kind of loss that we felt last year. It was a wake-up call because no one wanted to feel that way again. We were determined to prove to ourselves that we weren’t going to slide.”
By refusing to slide, Harvard advanced to the championship game, coming from behind against a team that defeated the Crimson 92-73 last year.
“We were down by nine points with 10 minutes to go,” co-captain Katie Gates said. “In the past couple years, that would probably have been the end of us, but we held onto it and turned it around really slowly.”
Against Villanova, three-point field goals made the difference in holding the Crimson in the Wildcats’ wake.
“We had the opportunities to win, but they’re a very experienced Big East team,” Gates said. “They ran their offense very well and they had very smart players.”
Villanova 59, Harvard 51
The opening minutes of the game forecast success for the Crimson, as Harvard led 13-5 at the 11:10 mark. But the Wildcats struck back, the beginning of the back-and-forth pattern of the game.
Led by junior Trish Juhline, Villanova fought to tie the game at 15 apiece with 6:30 remaining in the first half.
The teams traded a few baskets before the Wildcats went on a 13-3 tear to finish the half ahead 32-25.
“The type of play they run is so unusual,” Tubridy said. “It’s tough to defend because it’s not something you’re used to. There was a lot of off-the-ball movement.”
“They had a really intricate offense,” Gates said. “It’s exhausting to guard it. They were able to get some [three-point goals] off of some of our breakdowns.”
One ascent the Wildcats used to halt Crimson momentum was their three-point shooting ability. Junior Kate Davis, who was later named the tournament MVP, finished the game with 14 points, 12 from three-pointers. Junior Trish Juhline and sophomore Courtney Mix also contributed points from behind the arc.