Playing at the Mohegan Sun Casino, the Harvard women’s basketball team saw its string of luck run out late against Temple and suffered an 81-69 defeat.
Although the Crimson (3-3) held the Owls (3-3) to just 40 percent shooting from the field, Temple had an ace up its sleeve in freshman guard Khadijah Berger, whose four crucial threes off the bench proved to be the difference. The loss was Harvard’s third in its last five games.
“It is definitely disappointing,” co-captain Kaitlyn Dinkins said. “Temple is very beatable, especially given how we played in the first half. It is the same message out of our two losses. We played to the [gameplan] in the first half, and then in the second half [were] not able to do that.”
Harvard took a 34-32 lead into halftime behind the strong play of senior forward Temi Fagbenle. The Crimson’s leading scorer had 10 points in the first half and finished with 23 to go along with a program-record 24 rebounds.
However, Harvard quickly fell behind in the second half as it continued a disturbing early season trend of failing to hang on to the ball. The Crimson repeatedly shot itself in the foot time and time again with 17 turnovers, repeatedly giving Temple free possessions. Playing with house money, Temple turned the turnovers into 24 points.
“We are a very fundamental team and we like to play our system, our basketball,” said senior point guard Ali Curtis. “They pushed the tempo, and I think early on that dictated our pace of the game. We made some silly turnovers and forced some passes I think we would [usually] not.”
Despite the turnovers, Harvard held a 52-51 lead with 11 minutes to go before Temple picked up the pace, scoring the next 13 points to go ahead by 12 with just over seven minutes to play. The Crimson managed just four shots in the stretch as Temple doubled down on its full-court pressure and began to hit the jackpot from three, making four of its 11 second-half attempts.
As Harvard fell behind, it increasingly began to take on more risk. In poker parlance, the Crimson’s offensive strategy might be best described as playing jack-eight under the gun—taking on unnecessary risk while hoping for good fortune.
The Crimson rolled the dice early and often, launching 25 treys on the night and making just five. In the second half, with the game slipping away, the Crimson connected on three of 15 attempts, including just one of its last seven as the team tried repeatedly to cut into a double-digit deficit late.
“We knew they would key on our inside play and we are usually a good three-point shooting team, so we usually take those shots if they are open,” Curtis said. “[But] I think in the second half, we could have worked the ball inside and out and gotten the defense moving.”
While it struggled from outside, the Crimson was able to extend possession after possession on the offensive glass. Fagbenle had 10 offensive rebounds alone, and the team rebounded nearly 42 percent of its own misses, generating 18 second-chance points.
On the defensive end, however, Harvard struggled to replicate such success. After a first half in which the Crimson held the Owls to just seven-of-23 shooting on the interior, Temple found increased success inside throughout the second half. Six different Temple players had an offensive rebound as the team took home 17 offensive boards for 18 second-chance points of its own.
Overall, Harvard had just five blocks against 22 fouls as the Owls drove inside at will in the second frame, making half their shots and drawing 19 free throw attempts. Temple’s leading scorer Tanaya Atkinson had eight of her 20 points in the second half, including a three-point play with 13 minutes to go to give her team the lead.
“We knew they were going to be an athletic, fast-paced team,” Curtis said. “I thought that we stopped drives well in the first half, but in the second half we got away from that and they started beating us to the basket.”
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CrimsonDPFreed.
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