The 500-win club welcomed a new member Saturday night as Harvard women’s basketball coach Kathy Delaney-Smith clinched her 500th victory as the leader of the Crimson. Having spent 32 years at Harvard, Delaney-Smith is the winningest coach in Ivy League women’s basketball history. She joins 28 active coaches in Division I with at least 500 wins.
A strong offensive game gave Harvard (5-1) a lead Colgate (1-3) was unable to overcome as the Crimson defeated the Raiders, 91-76, at Cotterrell Court in Hamilton, N.Y. It was clear early on that Delaney-Smith would hit the 500 mark, as there were only two lead changes through the whole game.
The keys to the game for the Crimson were to get into an offensive stride, and shut Colgate down defensively. The Raiders strength lies in their ability to score, so Harvard knew they would need to silence the outside shooters to be successful.
“They were a really good shooting team so we wanted to make sure they didn’t get hot or get on fire,” junior forward Erin McDonnell said. “I think we did a pretty good job of doing that.”
The squad was able to force Colgate to the inside and take away their three-point game, with the Raiders only making five of 19 shots from behind the arc. In contrast, 40 of their 76 points came from inside the paint. The team had hoped to keep Colgate to below 70 points, but were unable to achieve that goal.
“They had a few very wide-open layups and that was very frustrating for us,” McDonnell said. “But we came together as a team and realized our defense was not our greatest and made sure we annihilate them the next four-minute segment.”
On the offensive side, it was entirely a team effort. McDonnell earned a career-high 19 points in the game, hitting four three-pointers. Co-captain Christine Clark scored 21 points for the fifth game in a row, leading the Crimson in scoring. Junior forward Temi Fagbenle and senior guard Jasmine Evans also were double-digit scorers. The bench also was able to contribute 25 points to the victory.
Fagbenle made an impact in all statistical categories, leading the team in rebounds and assists as well as contributing 16 points in the victory.
While three-pointers became Colgate’s weakness in Saturday’s game, it was Harvard’s strength. The team made 9-of-14 from behind the line in the first half, while shooting 54.5 percent overall in the game. This was a major leap compared to their season average of 38.8 percent shooting from long range.
“We had a height advantage so Colgate had to try and take our inside game away,” Delaney-Smith said. “We found the open shooter and it was never the same shooter.”
The Crimson’s 91 points were the most it has scored all season. It is the first time since December 2010 that the women scored over 90 points.
The first half saw a Crimson offense that could not be stopped. The team shot 65.5 percent from the field. McDonnell scored eight of the first 10 Harvard points, putting them ahead quickly. A similar pattern started out the second half, with the Crimson scoring seven of the first nine points. The largest lead came in the second half as Harvard led the Raiders by 23 points.
“They did get a few easy buckets that shouldn’t have happened,” McDonnell said. “Then we kind of pushed it back down their throats and never let them get into a run for too long.”
Turnovers were also important to the Crimson’s success. The team had 27 points off 22 turnovers, while Colgate conversely had only 12 points off of 17 turnovers.
Despite the significance of the victory for the record books, Harvard was entirely focused on beating a strong Raiders team. According to junior forward Erin McDonnell, Delaney-Smith wasn’t even aware of the landmark prior to the game.
“I don’t even think she knew it when we were playing,” McDonnell said. “She’s very humble…she totally forgot it was even her 500th win.”
The players themselves were very excited for Delaney-Smith’s milestone victory.
“After the game we were all talking about how blessed we were to play under a coach who’s been so successful throughout Harvard women’s basketball history,” McDonnell said. “It’s definitely an honor to play underneath her.”
Delaney-Smith only has to win 14 games to tie Princeton’s former men’s basketball coach Pete Carril for the title of most career wins by an Ivy League basketball coach, men or women.
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