The Harvard women’s basketball team closed out its pre-Ivy schedule in style by winning three of four games over winter break, most recently a 75-69 win at home over Manhattan on Jan. 2. The Crimson (8-4) now enters tomorrow’s Ivy opener against Dartmouth at 6 p.m. with its best pre-Ivy record since 1998.
Freshman center Reka Cserny added an exclamation point to Harvard’s last victory by scoring 33 points—the most any Crimson player has had in a single game since current WNBA mainstay Allison Feaster ’98 scored 35 in Harvard’s upset of top-seed Stanford in the 1998 NCAA tournament.
After the game, Cserny turned her thoughts to her first taste of Harvard-Dartmouth, Ivy women’s basketball’s greatest rivalry. The last Harvard-Dartmouth Ivy opener at Lavietes two years ago attracted over 2,000 fans and the team hasn’t had a better home draw since.
“The whole team is really excited about that game,” Cserny said. “I’m sure it will be a great game because we’re playing better and better every game.”
Dartmouth (4-6) has been headed in the opposite direction of the Crimson. Though the Big Green has four consecutive losses entering tomorrow’s game, the team has put up impressive numbers individually. All-Ivy junior center Katharine Hanks is averaging a league-best 22.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game and junior guard Keri Downs has netted 17.7 ppg—third-best in the Ivies—and shot 47.1 percent from behind the arc.
Harvard Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith praised Hanks’ versatility and Downs’ improvement but expects that the Crimson can more than match their scoring with sophomore forward Hana Peljto (20.6 ppg) and Cserny (16.4 ppg).
“We have to come ready to defend those two players [Hanks and Downs],” Delaney-Smith said. “I would rather try to stop Hanks and Downs than Reka and Hana. That’s a little tougher challenge.”
The Crimson’s opponents’ challenge of stopping Cserny and Peljto hasn’t been getting any easier either. Although the pair together is averaging 37 ppg, their output has been continually improving. After being limited to 26 points in a 66-62 win over Northeatern on Dec. 15, the pair scored 35 in a 78-66 loss to Syracuse on Dec. 20, 43 in a 67-44 win over Bucknell on Dec. 30, before draining 55 in Wednesday night’s win over Manhattan.
The improvement has belonged to Cserny in particular, as she has been making the adjustment to Harvard basketball after years of playing in Europe.
“She is just getting her comfort zone, getting better and better every game I think,” Delaney-Smith said.
Harvard 75, Manhattan 69
What makes Cserny’s 33-point effort particularly impressive is that she pulled it off despite having to sit out the last nine minutes of the first half with foul trouble.
So in what has become a commonplace occurrence this year, Harvard struggled without Cserny in the lineup in the first half but dominated the second. A 24-12 lead after 10 minutes became a 39-31 halftime deficit as Cserny sat on the bench, but the Crimson outscored the Jaspers 44-30 the rest of the way.
“Unfortunately teams go at her and she gets two quick fouls and I have to sit her,” Delaney-Smith said. “I wanted her for the second half. We were only down by eight and that was within our reach.”
Cserny got most of her scoring from behind the arc in the first half, where she shot 4-for-4, and on the charity stripe in the second half, where she shot 9-for-9. The 33 point total bested her career-high by six.