News

Undergraduates Celebrate Second Consecutive Virtual Housing Day

News

Dean of Students Office Discusses Housing Day, Anti-Racism Goals

News

Renowned Cardiologist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Bernard Lown Dies at 99

News

Native American Nonprofit Accuses Harvard of Violating Federal Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

News

U.S. Reps Assess Biden’s Progress on Immigration at HKS Event

Rutgers Too Much For W. Hoops

By Jessica T. Lee, Crimson Staff Writer

Lavietes Pavilion was alive with a stomping crowd as senior point guard Bev Moore hit a three to bring the Harvard women’s basketball team within one point of Rutgers with 6:23 left to play.

But Scarlet Knight point guard Cappie Pondexter would not let the Crimson get any closer, as she scored 11 of Rutgers’ final 15 points on the way to a 77-70 victory last night.

With 5:11 left to go, Pondexter had the ball on the right side of the perimeter, with 6’3 junior center Reka Cserny guarding her. As Pondexter stood poised to shoot, Cserny raised her arms high, preparing to snatch the ball as she done throughout the season in leading Harvard with 12 blocks.

But Pondexter, standing at 5’9, did not seem to realize that Cserny had half a foot on her as she boosted herself into the air for a jumper.

“It was over Reka, it was great defense,” Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “You have to say, what can you do? There’s not anything else you can do on that.”

Pondexter followed up with another jumper to give Rutgers a six-point lead, 69-63, with 4:26 remaining in the game.

The Scarlet Knights gave Harvard every chance for a dramatic comeback, as Rutgers turned the ball over three times in the final two minutes. With 1:52 left, co-captain forward Hana Peljto stole the ball from Dawn McCullouch and iced a layup to put the Crimson within one basket at 73-70.

Harvard was presented with a game-tying opportunity just 20 seconds later, when junior guard Rochelle Bell stole the ball from Pondexter, but Moore’s ensuing jumper bounced off the rim.

McCullouch grabbed the rebound and headed down the court, but was called for a charge and Harvard was given yet another chance to knot the score.

The foul was the Scarlet Knights’ 10th, putting Rutgers into double bonus, but because a charge is a player-control foul, the Crimson was awarded only possession rather than the two free throws a foul in double bonus usually grants.

Harvard trotted down the court, but the Scarlet Knights’ defense was set and ready as Bell dribbled into the paint for a layup. Bell’s shot missed and the Crimson’s third and final opening to tie the game closed with 33 seconds left.

Moore attempted two more three-pointers and co-captain forward Tricia Tubridy almost sank a layup in the final second, but Harvard had to foul Rutgers to gain those possessions. The Scarlet Knights made all four free throws to bring the final score to 77-70.

The Crimson had stayed with Rutgers throughout the game, allowing the Scarlet Knights their biggest lead with 1:44 left in the first half. Three turnovers and two missed layups on Harvard’s end allowed Rutgers an eight-point run that increased its lead to 11 at 39-28.

However, the Crimson regrouped and narrowed the gap to six, 39-33, by halftime.

Harvard continued to cut away at the Scarlet Knights’ advantage in the second half, but after seven exchanges of the lead in the first frame, Rutgers would not surrender it again.

Cserny and Peljto filled the star-scorer roles for Harvard, with 23 and 22 points, respectively. Pondexter finished the game with 30 points to her name, while McCullouch followed with 22.

“They just have some unbelievably talented players who hit some great shots,” Moore said.

Most of those shots came from the perimeter, especially during the first half, when the Scarlet Knights struggled to pass into the paint. But Rutgers adjusted to the zone defense that the Crimson had practiced all week and Pondexter’s jumpers highlighted the second frame.

“I think we had to get out to some of the kids that were shooting,” Delaney-Smith said. “You can only pack in your zone so long, and if they’re going to make those shots, you have to go out and play them a little bit tighter.”

Though each team turned the ball over 18 times, the Scarlet Knights capitalized more on the miscues, scoring 20 points off turnovers, while Harvard registered just eight. Taking advantage of mistakes is a Rutgers trademark—the Scarlet Knights were scoring 26.1 percent of their points off turnovers coming into this game.

While the Crimson’s turnover problems are familiar, Harvard’s first half offensive output was dramatically different from its astounding seven-point showing against Rutgers last year. In fact, junior guard Katie Murphy almost scored more points in the first three minutes of the game (six) then last year’s Crimson team had managed in the first twenty minutes.

Murphy had been instrumental in setting a tone for the first minute of the game, assisting Peljto’s opening jumpers, and then scoring back-to-back threes herself.

Murphy’s start was only her third, as sophomore Jess Holsey has filled the two-guard starting role all season. But Holsey dislocated her shoulder just before winter break, leaving a gap in the starting five.

Although the same injury severely limited her play last season, Holsey should be back on the floor in a matter of days.

Harvard’s depth in the backcourt had been substantial enough to take a hit, but its numbers were even thinner with sophomore Laura Robinson sidelined with a nagging back injury.

Even the guards on the floor are spending time in the trainer’s office, as Bell has just recovered from a long layoff due to injuries and Moore is dealing with inflammation in her high ankle.

Moore’s injury may not be “cured” during the season, so doctor’s orders consist of rest. However, against Rutgers, Moore was the only player on either team to play all 40 minutes.

Rutgers was to be the last of Harvard’s ranked opposition for the regular season, but the Scarlet Knights fell off the national polls just last week, after being ranked as high as 15th in the nation. The drop followed a four-game skid on the road, in which Rutgers lost to only one unranked opponent and was even leading No. 2 Tennessee with seven minutes remaining before the Lady Volunteers sealed up the win.

—Staff writer Jessica T. Lee can be reached at lee45@fas.harvard.edu.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags
Women's Basketball