The Harvard women’s basketball team returned home with a bang. After a month of road games, the Crimson (8-3) returned to Lavietes Pavilion on Saturday with a 60-41 win over the Hofstra Pride (4-5). The win marks Harvard’s best start since the 1997-98 season, when the Crimson began its season 16-2.
“The fact that we could have a win, as ugly as it may have been on the offensive end … I am thrilled,” coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “I was a little frustrated with the shots. We got a lot of [opportunities] that did not fall for us … The irony is that we tend to think we shoot better when we play at home.”
Though the Crimson had a more difficult time scoring as the game progressed, the team opened the match with a 12-2 run. The Pride failed to capitalize on 13 of its first 14 shots in the early minutes of the contest.
“This game was just a question of who could stop the other team better,” junior Ali Curtis said. “I think we came out, and we wanted to make a point to them that they weren’t going to stay in the game. That’s what we did from the very beginning.”
Junior Erin McDonnell put up nine of the 12 points scored in the first eight minutes of play. Along with McDonnell, classmates Temi Fagbenle played a critical role in the Crimson’s triumph. Fagbenle led the team in rebounds, scrambling to recover 15 boards to go with her 15 points.
“Temi just established herself as an incredible rebounder from the jump ball,” Delaney-Smith said. “She was dominant on the boards…She is such a talent and she contributes to our game defensively, and she’s always good for double figures. She’s amazing.”
After the initial Harvard push, Hofstra refused to stop fighting. The Pride’s Annie Payton scored seven straight points in the opening of the second half, bringing her team within 10 points, 32-22. However, three consecutive Harvard triples, two by McDonnell, catapulted the Crimson lead back to a safe 18 points, which Harvard maintained for the rest of the game.
McDonnell finished the match with seven rebounds and led the team with 17 points.
“Erin is a huge piece of who we are,” Delaney-Smith said. “She’s a great three-point shooter, she’s a power player inside, and she’s starting to become a better and better defensive player for us.”
McDonnell and Fagbenle have been key players in the Crimson program this season: Fagbenle has averaged 13.6 buckets a game and 9.9 rebounds, while McDonnell averages 11.4 points per game.
“The team will continue to look for them as leaders both on and off the field,” Delaney-Smith said. “They work hard in practice, and it clearly pays off in the games.”
Other familiar faces contributed to the victory. Sophomore AnnMarie Healy put up a career-high 10 points and nine rebounds, while seniors Melissa Mullins and Jasmine Evans each chipped in five points and six rebounds.
“This was a team effort,” Curtis said. “It was just a great game overall. It was a fun game to take part in.”
In the two teams’ last meeting, Harvard barely scraped out a win, defeating Hofstra 70-67 in an overtime victory. The year prior, the Crimson walked away victorious in the first round of WNIT play, conquering the Pride 73-71.
“Our defense and rebounding was spectacular today and that made all the difference,” Delaney-Smith said. “With great effort on defense, the offense becomes so much less important.”
With Saturday’s win, Harvard’s home record improved to 4-0. However, the Crimson will not see Lavietes Pavilion again until January 25th.
“It was great being home,” Curtis said. “There was a good crowd there, and I know we are all going to miss playing here in front of Harvard fans in the upcoming month.”
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