Women's Basketball Ekes Out Nail-biter Against Northeastern, 67-65

With the game tied at 65-apiece and 22 seconds left in regulation, Harvard women’s basketball coach Kathy Delaney-Smith called a timeout to set up the final possession against a tough Northeastern squad.  

The play was designed to get the ball into senior forward Temi Fagbenle’s hands—Fagbenle had notched a double-double in the first half alone, and her stature and experience made it an easy go-to call for Delaney-Smith for the final possession.

But when senior guard Ali Curtis tossed the ball to Fagbenle, the 6’4” forward was immediately triple-teamed. Fagbenle dumped the ball off to junior forward AnnMarie Healy, who dribbled under the basket, turned around, and pulled up for the short jumper. One missed Northeastern (2-5) layup later, and the Crimson (5-4) survived a nail-biter, 67-65.

“The whole plan was for [Fagbenle] to take it and get it to the hoop, and they definitely put a lot of pressure on her…so she took a chance on me,” Healy said.

The Crimson employed a zone defense from the get-go, stifling the Huskies’ early on. Northeastern shot just 24.3 percent from the floor in the first half, and Harvard took advantage of the missed buckets to take a six-point lead into the break, with Fagbenle tallying 10 points and as many rebounds to lead the charge.  


Then, the Huskies jumped into an offensive groove. After scoring just eight points in the first 13 minutes of the game, Northeastern capitalized on a slew of second-half Crimson turnovers and Harvard’s 1-for-10 shooting to open up the half to embark on a 12-2 run to open the half. With about nine minutes remaining, the visitors had not only wiped away the deficit but also had built a 10-point lead.

But the Huskies’ defensive aggressiveness—including a full-court press that caused a few of Harvard’s 11 second-half turnovers—also created foul trouble that put Northeastern in the penalty with eight minutes to go. The Crimson got to the free-throw line 21 times, making 16, compared to the Huskies’ 12, to slowly climb back into the game.

“We were able to get the points without the clock running, so especially when you’re down, that is a big deal, when you’re trying to get back from a pretty big deficit,” Healy said.

Both teams began the game uncharacteristically cold from downtown, shooting a combined 0-for-17 from three after shooting 33 percent all season. But after missing its first 16 treys, Harvard began hitting shots when it counted.

Junior guard Shilpa Tummala, who took second in a national three-point shooting contest in high school, knocked down a trey with 5:44 remaining to cut Northeastern’s lead to one. A few Crimson free throws later, and the home team regained the lead.

Then, captain Erin McDonnell—who had been 0-for-4 from beyond the arc—hit back-to-back treys, but Northeastern responded each time with threes of its own to keep the game tight down the stretch.  

“Erin has spent her entire career getting punished if she doesn’t catch and shoot when she’s open,” Delaney-Smith said. “However, Erin was not hitting those threes, or any of her shots, but you don’t ever tell an unselfish shooter like Erin to stop shooting, because then when you need her she’s not going to be able to hit it, so...our philosophy here for a shooter like Erin is to just keep shooting.”

After a month of playing on the road, Harvard finally returned home to Lavietes Pavilion, and the hardwood wasn’t the only thing familiar on Saturday.

On top of playing during finals period—five Crimson players took exams Saturday morning—Harvard had the additional challenge of facing a Northeastern squad that was coached by Kelly Cole, who was on Harvard’s sidelines for the previous two years as an assistant coach.

“Even way before she came to Harvard, I thought she should have been head coach somewhere, so I loved that she was with us for two years,” Delaney-Smith said. “I knew that it would be a chess match. We both did game adjustments that we probably knew each other were doing, so it was great.”

—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at


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