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Late Second-Half Collapse Dooms Women's Basketball

By Aidan E. Tait, Contributing Writer

For over 30 minutes on Sunday evening, it looked like Harvard would leave California 2-0. But a series of critical turnovers and a late USC rally turned an early Crimson lead into a lopsided loss.

The Harvard women’s basketball team (3-1, 0-0 Ivy) dropped its first decision of the season, 74-58, against the Women of Troy (2-2, 0-0 Pac-10), rounding out its West Coast road trip at 1-1, which included a 75-61 victory over San Jose St. on Friday.

Senior guard Katie Murphy hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 54 with under 10 minutes remaining and give the Crimson a bit of momentum.But Harvard coughed up the ball on three consecutive possessions, and USC turned those turnovers into six quick points on the other end, finishing the game on a 20-4 run.

“It was kind of strange,” junior guard Jess Holsey said. “It just came out of nowhere, it seemed like. They were hitting shots and we weren’t answering them.”

Holsey poured in a game-high 23 points to help give the Crimson a 12-point lead early in the first half, and Harvard headed into the break just one point behind the Women of Troy. Holsey finished the game 9-14 from the field with four assists and three steals.

The Crimson shot a blistering 59.1 percent from the field in the first half, tossing in three three-pointers and shooting 75 percent at the free throw line.

“It felt great to start the game so strongly,” Murphy said. “In the first three games we came out weak.”

But the second half would be decidedly different for the visiting Harvard squad.After overcoming a three-point halftime deficit against the Spartans earlier in the weekend, the Crimson ran out of steam against the athletic USC team.

A quick seven-point spurt to start the half had the Crimson up 39-34, but the five point margin wouldn’t last long. The teams exchanged the lead seven times before the Women of Troy claimed it for good with 7:50 to go in the second half.

Harvard shot only 38.5 percent from the field in the latter frame, and the Women of Troy forced 23 turnovers on the evening. USC out-muscled the Crimson on the offensive glass, tallying 18 offensive rebounds to Harvard’s seven. In the second half, the Women of Troy visited the free throw line 15 times after not having reached the charity stripe in the opening period.

Key USC reserves Chloe Kerr and Brynn Cameron fueled the late surge, and the Crimson defense had trouble containing the guard-forward duo. The 6’3 Kerr dominated the first half, tallying 12 of her 14 points in the opening period. Her six-point flurry—complemented by a steal and a block—midway through the opening period helped the Women of Troy to surmount the early deficit.

Cameron ruled the second half for USC. She finished the game with a team-high 18 points, shooting 7-10 from the floor and 4-6 from beyond the arc. Three of her three-pointers came in the second half, stretching the Harvard defense and opening up the lane for the frontcourt.

“They’re obviously a very well established program and had confidence down the stretch,” Murphy said.

The Women of Troy forwards dominated the glass all night, resulting in 67 shots for USC to just 48 for the Crimson.

“We were able to keep them of the boards for the first 30 minutes of the game and they kept crashing hard to get some big boards down the stretch that led to the outcome of the game,” Murphy said.

Despite the strong Women of Troy presence on the frontcourt, captain center Reka Cserny made the most of the night, tallying 11 points, six rebounds and two steals. The two takeaways gave Cserny over 200 steals on her career, a mark reached by just two other players in Crimson history.

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