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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Though the Harvard women’s basketball team capped off its 14-0 Ivy season by cruising past Brown, 83-51, on Saturday night at the Pizzitola Center in front of a crowd of 1,062, the unblemished ending was not quite complete.
“Not perfect yet—we have to beat a top-20 team,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “Then it’ll be the perfect season.”
Early three-pointers from junior forward Hana Peljto and junior point guard Bev Moore gave the Crimson (22-4, 14-0 Ivy) a cushion to play with and solid zone defense did the rest as Harvard’s lead never dipped below 12 after the first eight minutes of the game.
The Crimson’s advantage ballooned in the second half, powered by strong contributions from the bench, as the Bears (15-12, 9-5) couldn’t put up a fight in their season finale.
Peljto had game-highs with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Moore set a career mark with 17 points. Every player on both teams’ rosters saw time on the floor, while the Crimson at one point featured an all-freshman lineup.
“My dream was to play all five freshmen this year,” Delaney-Smith said. “They have such a connection. They’re a very strong class. I was thrilled to be able to get them on the floor together tonight.”
Among the impressive rookies, forward Shana Franklin registered a career-high with 13 of Harvard’s final 17 points.
The Crimson led 38-24 at halftime and put Brown away with a 31-5 run to open the second half. Harvard extended its lead to 40 points with 11:34 remaining on a Franklin trey.“Everyone that [Delaney-Smith] put together on the floor just clicked really well and it was just a great team effort,” sophomore guard Katie Murphy said. “We had great extra passes, good ball movement—we just had the whole package tonight.”
The package included six points from captain and forward Kate Ides, who held her own against 6’5 sophomore center Holly Robertson.
“Kate Ides is a force in there, and against big tall Holly [Robertson], that matters,” Delaney-Smith said. “Kate was able to push her around and stay active on her.”
While Harvard shot 8-of-18 from behind the arc in the first half, Brown came up empty in its seven attempts from three-point land and finished the game 1-for-13. With the Bears flailing behind the arc, the Crimson answered Brown’s attempts to drive with a strong two-three zone.
“If you take their threes away, they’re going to drive, drive, drive, or pass to Holly [Robertson] for the hook or rebound for Holly,” Delaney-Smith said. “When we packed in our zone, we took a lot of their options away from them. They weren’t able to drive quite as easily.”
Harvard has now won 26 straight Ivy games, the second-longest streak in league history.
The Crimson also raises the school record for consecutive wins to 16 after the weekend sweep.
In the teams’ previous meeting, the Bears’ athleticism created matchup problems for Harvard, but the Crimson’s subsequent adjustments and better ball control prevailed on Saturday.
Harvard looks to improve its play against tall, athletic opponents further by practicing against a scout team composed of men, the goal being to foster the aggression and confidence that contributed to Harvard’s perfect Ivy season, but were missing in early nonconference losses.
“We were like deer in the headlights [in those losses],” Delaney-Smith said. “We played scared. We were quite injured at the time and even though there were bodies out on the floor, there are limitations because of injuries and coming back from injuries.”
The Crimson—the first team in the nation to secure an NCAA bid—now awaits the NCAA selection show on March 16 at 5 p.m. on ESPN. Harvard earned a 13th seed last year, but hopes for higher this year based on its RPI, which stands at 43rd in the nation according to Jerry Palm’s www.collegerpi.com.
“I’m hoping 12 or better. That could be wishful thinking,” Delaney-Smith said. “They look at the top and they look at the bottom. There’s not a lot of discussion in the middle. If we fall in the middle, then our RPI is darn good. With a few conference upsets, anything could happen. We feel we’re ready to go on the floor with anyone.”
—Staff writer Jessica T. Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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