WEB UPDATE: Women's hoops tops Gauchos to open California swing

The Harvard women’s basketball team is checking off credentials on its non-conference list as it readies for Ivy play. Its most recent acquisition? A tough, come-from-behind win on the road.

The Crimson (7-4) rallied from seven points down in the final two minutes to beat U.C. Santa Barbara (3-5) in a 61-59 nailbiter on Dec. 17 at the Thunderdome in Santa Barbara, Calif.

After the two teams traded leads for most of the second half, the Gauchos used an 8-2 run with under five minutes to play to put themselves up by seven with 1:17 to play. The run set the stage for Harvard’s own furious scoring streak. Sophomore guard Christine Matera and co-captain Niki Finelli hit back-to-back shots from distance, which they sandwiched around a Brogan Berry steal.

Up by one, UCSB’s Jenna Green turned the ball back over to Harvard to set up senior forward Katie Rollins’ game-winning layup. After yet another Gaucho turnover, Rollins hit a free throw with three seconds remaining to seal the win.

UCSB’s late-game seven-point lead was the largest either team had enjoyed all evening. The matchup featured 18 lead changes and six ties.

The thrilling ending masked some ugly second-half shooting numbers in the Crimson box score. After shooting well in the first half (44 percent), Harvard connected on just eight of 34 attempts from the field—including four of 13 from three.

But two of those long-range shots that did fall proved to be the game’s biggest. While Matera shot just 4-for-11 on the night (3-for-9 from distance), she has come on of late, scoring 11 points in each of her last two contests. Finelli led the team with 13 points and eight rebounds. Emma Markley’s six-point night ended her streak of double-digit scoring at 10 games.

The Crimson will stay on the West Coast through the weekend to compete in the Women of Troy Basketball Classic at the University of Southern California. Harvard will take on Siena Friday evening and the host Trojans on Sunday. Tip-off for both contests is scheduled for 7:45 p.m., Eastern Time.