It may have been Valentine’s Day, but the Harvard women’s basketball team did not show Columbia any love on Friday night.
The Crimson (16-5, 6-1 Ivy) opened up a four-game homestand at Lavietes Pavilion against the Lions (4-17, 1-6) and shot the lights out in the first half en route to a 99-64 win.
Two weeks ago, Harvard held a 14-point lead at Princeton and watched it dwindle to just one in late in the game. Against Columbia, the Crimson again jumped out to a sizeable lead before the break. But this time, Harvard managed to maintain its defensive pressure throughout, forcing Columbia into a hole that proved too much for the visitors to climb out of.
The final score represented the team’s largest margin of victory this season and kept the squad atop the Ancient Eight, a half game ahead of Penn.
“We talk the talk all the time, but I thought we walked the walk a little bit better tonight,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “It’s hard—sometimes you relax a little bit. We were scoring pretty easily—until the end, at least. I have to give [the Lions] credit; they didn’t stop playing. It’s hard to play that hard when you’re getting killed.”
The contest was Harvard’s first at home since its Jan. 25 matchup against Dartmouth, and the familiarity of Lavietes showed in the team’s play, according to Delaney-Smith. The Crimson shot 68 percent from the floor in the first half, including 70 percent from behind the arc, and 58.2 percent overall.
“I think we were happy to be home,” Delaney-Smith said. “We love to play here, and we’ve had the tougher [part] of the Ivy League schedule, so I know I’m thrilled to be home.”
Despite trailing by double digits throughout the majority of the night, the Lions refused to check out from the game. Midway through the second half, guard Sara Mead and forward Tori Oliver hit back-to-back treys to finish a 12-1 run that brought Columbia within 26.
But that was as close to a comeback as the Lions would be able to manage. Led by seven points within four minutes from sophomore forward AnnMarie Healy, the Crimson saw its lead surge to 42, its largest of the night. Healy finished with 17 points, second only behind co-captain Christine Clark’s 21. The sophomore also pulled down 10 rebounds for her first career double-double.
It was a banner night for others on the team, too, as the large lead allowed the bench to see some action—all but one player who suited up for the game contributed to the scoreboard for Harvard. Junior co-captain Kaitlyn Dinkins tied her career-high with three points, and two freshmen—guard Grace Keane and forward Maggie Hartman—also received playing time.
Hartman, who had been sidelined for much of the year due to injury, made her collegiate debut against Columbia, hitting 7-of-8 from the charity stripe and finishing with nine points.
“We kind of live for that, I think,” Clark said. “We’re such a close-knit team, and it just makes everyone feel so good to see Dink out there, to see Maggie out there. You just live for these kinds of things.”
Six minutes elapsed in the game before the Lions managed to get on the scoreboard, and the double-digit lead that the Crimson built in the opening minutes never disappeared.
Seconds after Columbia hit its first bucket, junior guard Ali Curtis also sunk her first shot—a three-pointer. From there, sophomore guard Kit Metoyer joined the party, pouring in three treys on consecutive possessions. Mullins added in her own three-pointer to extend the lead to 15 halfway through the first period.
“Kit is our secret weapon,” Delaney-Smith said. “She’s a young guard who just needed to finish up some defensive skills, and she finally has. We’ve always known that she’s an incredible shooter…. I think she’ll be someone to be reckoned with.”
Behind a stifling 2-3 zone defense that held Columbia to 25.8 percent shooting and just two points in the paint before halftime, Harvard built a 26-point lead heading into the break.
The Crimson capitalized on the Lions’ foul trouble as well—Harvard took 40 attempts from the line, where Columbia tried just 16 foul shots.
“I think what we’ve been trying to accomplish is to be a better defensive team,” Delaney-Smith said. “They had 22 in the first half and we were trying to hold them to that in the second. I was pretty happy with our defense.”
—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LinSamnity.
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