Tyson's Punch-Out: Harvard Seeks A Triple Threat

In last night’s victory over Rhode Island, the “European Union” combined for 55 of the Crimson’s 86 points. Hana Pejlto and Reka Cserny have led the Crimson to a 5-3 start, and there has yet to be a game where one of them was not Harvard’s leading scorer.

Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim has said that a championship basketball team needs three scorers. What about two really good players?

Cserny was just named Ivy League Rookie of the Week for the second week in a row. She and Pejlto might make the best all-around dual threat in the Ivy League. Is anyone’s combination better?

To go along with Pejlto’s career-high 28 points, the Bosnian-born sophomore added two assists and dragged down a team-high six rebounds. Coming into last night’s game Pejlto was third in the league in scoring and seventh in rebounds. Pejlto is an early favorite to win Player of the Year with Dartmouth’s Katherine Hanks and a slew of others that could come forward as the season progresses.

Cserny is the early favorite to win Rookie of the Year and as Harvard Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith reminds everyone, she is “Only a freshman!” The Hungarian-born Cserny added four rebounds to her career-high 27 points. Cserny, who spent six years on Hungarian junior national teams, will only further develop her game during her tenure at Harvard.

The Crimson is the preseason favorite to win the Ivy Championship. While this year’s team should be very competitive, next year’s will be great. Both Pejlto and Cserny will come storming back, along with sophomore swing player Tricia Tubridy and junior center Sarah Johnson to form the best frontcourt in the Ivy League. The backcourt will be boosted by Louisiana Tech transfer Beverly Moore and a more experienced sophomore Dirkje Dunham.

Dunham, who has excelled in the new Harvard flex offense and seen her playing time increase, will only get better. Dunham started against Rhode Island, playing 27 mniutes in the two-guard spot while scoring nine points, dishing out two assists and pulling down three rebounds. Could Dunham develop into that third scoring threat and push the Crimson to the next level? Only time will tell, as Dunham’s game develops but things look good from here.

Dunham’s regular playing time has been assured by sophomore Jennifer Lee’s departure. The once likely successor to senior Jenn Monti at point guard parted from the team over questions of her ability to fit the team ideals.

“The girl is a wonderful one-on-one player,” Delaney-Smith said. “We could not play her last year because she does not play any defense.”

Lee was not fitting into either last year’s offense or the new flex offense that Dunham has fourished in.

“She has not played well one day after two months of practice,” said Delaney-Smith.

Harvard next gets on the bus for two road games during winter break. The Crimson take on Northeastern across the city before heading to Syracuse for a matchup with the Orangewomen. Despite three consecutive losses to Northeastern, the Huskies should be a win for the Crimson who have looked brilliant at times early this season.

“The four [nonconference] games we have left, we could win or lose them, they could go either way,” said Delaney-Smith. “Northeastern we should beat.”

Syracuse is bound to show a lot about what this Crimson team is made of. The ‘Cuse lost to then-No. 18 Michigan by just eight points. The Orangewomen’s four victories include wins over Pepperdine and Seton Hall. Syracuse will be a big opportunity for the young Crimson team to jump on the national scene and open some eyes. The Orangewomen are ranked 56th in the national RPI, five spots ahead of Rhode Island and 15 behind Kansas State, a team Harvard lost to earlier in the season, 72-56.

The Crimson are a good team right now that has the potential to be great. With the emergence of Dunham, Harvard may be able to develop that essential third scorer and push them to the top of the Ivy League, if not higher.