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In a season that can only be described as disappointing for a team expected to run away with its third-straight Ivy League crown, the Harvard women’s basketball team has had to learn how to deal with its fair share of dissatisfaction, irritation and aggravation.
In last night’s much anticipated rematch with Dartmouth (15-12, 8-6 Ivy), the Crimson (16-11, 9-5) was able to dish out some of its own—blowing out the Big Green, 82-59.
Unable to curb a Harvard offense that had already jumped out to a 13-point lead, Dartmouth coach Chris Wielgus made a rare coaching decision—one part strategy and one part, well, frustration. With 6:34 left in the first half, she pulled all five starters.
“I just needed to talk to them,” Wielgus said. “We needed to talk defense. We weren’t getting the job done and I just had to take them all out to get everything together.”
But the tactic failed to produce substantial results.
“No way [did it work],” said Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith. “She was trying to put a spark under their butt, but I don’t think they came to play. They’re young.”
Harvard built its big lead with some early sharp shooting, starting the game on an 11-3 run—a four-minute stretch in which the team converted all but one attempt from the floor.
“We scored easily, really easily. We ran the most basic plays that we run,” Delaney-Smith said. “The only problem is that when we score that easily, sometimes we tend to relax on defense.”
The Crimson eventually cooled, but Dartmouth was unable to muster enough offense to capitalize on the scoring lull. Compounding the problem, the Big Green gave up 10 Harvard offensive rebounds in the first half. The Crimson went into the locker room with a convincing 46-30 lead.
“Harvard always starts out strong and we knew that,” Wielgus said. “We just didn’t shoot well. We didn’t get good shots and we couldn’t convert on them. But most of all we just didn’t rebound.”
Things hardly improved for Dartmouth. In the second half, they could pull no closer than within 14 points of the Crimson’s total.
Unlike what transpired in the last meeting between these two teams—when the Big Green ended Harvard’s 26-game Ivy winning streak with a 93-88 victory on Jan. 10—youth was unable to overcome experience. Co-captain forward Hana Peljto closed out her Crimson career with an impressive 26-point performance.
Dartmouth freshman standout Elise Morrison—who scored 30 points in the teams’ first meeting—finished with only 15, many of which came after Harvard had already pulled its starters.
“She got her points, but they were mostly junk,” Delaney-Smith said. “She’s a great post player, but we just denied her the ball and tried to double down and it worked.”
After the game, Peljto said she was happy about her final performance.
“Of course it’s sad to be playing in your last game,” she said, “but we had a good team effort and I was happy with the way things came out.”
Senior point guard Bev Moore, also making her last appearance for the Crimson, had 10 points and was two-of-three from behind the arc. Cserny was the only other Harvard player in double digits with 17.
Forward Jeannie Cullen led the way for the Big Green, finishing one point ahead of Morrison with 16.
With the win, the Crimson jumped past Dartmouth to finish tied with Brown for second place in the final league standings.
“Relative to our expectations, this is painful for us to be second and not first,” Delaney-Smith said. “It’s painful for us not to go to the NCAAs because we think we would represent the league best.”
“So I think for us to finish the way we did is a real testament to our character and our pride,” she added.
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