Clutch shooting was the key for the Harvard women’s basketball team in Friday’s matchup between the Crimson and Brigham Young University, as Harvard relied on two late shots to earn the victory, 71-65.
With one minute remaining and the score tied, 63-63, Crimson senior forward Victoria Lippert brought the ball up the court, stepped to the arc, and sank a three-pointer to catapult the Crimson (2-1, 0-0 Ivy) past the the Cougars (2-2, 1-0 WCC).
“That’s what [Lippert’s] done all four years,” said Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith. “It never surprised me. I just love that she does that, year in, year out, game in, game out.”
Two free throws from Cougar guard Lexi Eaton brought BYU within one, but co-captain Emma Golen forced a turnover from guard Ashley Garfield and then netted a three-pointer with 22 seconds remaining to seal the win for Harvard at Lavietes Pavilion.
Golen has now sunk nine of her 10 three-point attempts this season, and it was her precision from behind the arc that prompted Delaney-Smith to call the game-clinching play for the senior.
“[Golen’s three-point] stats are off the charts,” Delaney-Smith said. “We run a play for her—we run a play for Vic too, but Vic is ice, everyone knows Vic is a go-to. No one knows Emma is a go-to, so that’s why we called the play for Emma.”
Coming into the second half trailing by five, the Crimson reclaimed the lead with a 7-0 run. BYU took back the edge, but Harvard’s focus on transition defense and ability to force turnovers prevented the Cougars from jumping out to a large lead.
“I just felt like we had such a drive to win that game,” Lippert said. “Just the effort down [the stretch] and just executing at the end got us the win.”
The Crimson displayed its bevy of offensive weapons as three different players—sophomore forward Temi Fagbenle, Lippert, and Clark—recorded double figures in the game. Clark scored the team high with 18 points on 50 percent shooting, while Lippert recorded her first double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“We have so many offensive weapons, and I think that’s such a great thing about our team,” Lippert said. “We have a lot of really great scorers who can score in different ways.”
On defense, Harvard held the visitors to under 50 percent shooting and record with nine steals, six coming in the second half.
“Defense was key in winning this game,” Delaney-Smith said.
The Cougars kept the contest close throughout, and the six points that Harvard won by was the largest spread of the game for either team. The lead changed a total of eleven times on the night.
BYU jumped out to an early 8-4 lead following two treys from guard Kim Beeston, but the Crimson quickly fought back, tying the game at eight off a pair of Clark’s free throws. Beeston led the Cougars’ offense, shooting 5-of-7 from behind the arc to net 19 points.
Early in the game, Harvard struggled rebounding and stopping BYU in transition, which Delaney-Smith deemed as uncharacteristic compared to the team’s previous practices and games.
“It was inexplicable to me,” Delaney-Smith said. “That first half couldn’t have been uglier, couldn’t have been more different from what we had done all week in practice.”
The story of the Crimson’s first half on offense was missed opportunities as it went one-of-five on three-point shots. An 11-4 run fueled by back-to-back jumpers from Eaton gave the Cougars a 34-29 lead going into the half, their largest lead of the game.
“If we have a weakness, it’s that we’re not patient,” Delaney-Smith said. “We want to score quickly. We do have a lot of scorers, but we can get better shots if we balance out some patience.”
Ten different players scored for the Crimson, and Harvard’s depth is something that Delaney-Smith touts as one of the team’s best qualities.
“There’s not a big difference in the top nine, 10, 11 players, so someone’s got to get the starting call and not everyone gets in as much as they’d like to,” Delaney-Smith said. “That’s got to happen when you’re as deep as we are, and that’s going to make us a championship team, if we can understand that the team comes first.”
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