The Harvard women’s basketball team now has two losses in conference play, and they have one thing in common: the opponent.
Down by nine with two minutes to go, sophomore guard Kit Metoyer grabbed the inbounds pass from junior forward Erin McDonnell and told her teammate confidently, “Let’s do this—we got it.”
But one missed Crimson jump shot later, Penn guard Alyssa Baron caught the ball on the right wing with 1:35 remaining and knocked down a trey—her third of the night—to extend the deficit to 12.
It was that kind of night for Harvard (17-6, 7-2 Ivy), which couldn’t find the bottom of the net against the toughest defense in the conference, and Penn (17-5, 7-1) handed the Crimson another loss, 63-50.
“[The shots we were taking] felt good,” senior guard Melissa Mullins said. “That’s why this loss kind of hurts, because it felt good and we lost, so it’s like, ‘Hmm, what do we do?’”
The Quakers’ victory put them atop the league, a half game ahead of Harvard, and broke the Crimson’s 21-game winning streak at Lavietes Pavilion, where it had not dropped a contest since a Feb. 24, 2012 game against Princeton. Harvard now needs a Penn loss to the Tigers to regain control of its fight for the Ancient Eight title.
“It’s not the end of the world by any means,” co-captain Christine Clark said. “I think there’s some adjustments we can make—obviously to keep them off the boards, limit our turnovers…. This isn’t the end of the Ivy season by any means. Anything can happen, and we’re still in a good position.”
Even though Penn shot just 33.8 percent, it proved enough for a double-digit win, as the home team hit 30.8 percent of its shots and just 10.5 percent from downtown. The Crimson averaged 35.2 percent from behind the arc entering Friday night’s game.
Midway through the second half, a long jumper from junior forward Temi Fagbenle cut Penn’s lead to seven. On Harvard’s next possession, McDonnell had the opportunity to cut the deficit to four with a wide-open three, but in a common theme on the night for the Crimson, it rimmed in and out.
“We missed a lot of put-backs and bunnies, and some threes that normally fall for us,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “2-for-19 from three? That’s just not us. We’re a very good three-point shooting team, just not tonight. Penn didn’t [shoot well]. But they hit 6-for-20 threes, and we hit 2-for 19, and that’s a big difference.”
After closing the first half with a 6-1 run to pull within four, the Crimson appeared to have its best shot at regaining control of the game at the opening of the second half. Harvard’s defense did not allow a bucket in the final 4:55 before halftime, reverting to a zone and showing Penn full-court presses that effectively silenced the opposing team until the break.
But less than a minute into the second half, Quakers guard Meghan McCullough knocked the ball out of McDonnell’s hands, grabbed an offensive rebound off of a missed teammate’s trey, and knocked her own down from the top of the key.
The Crimson started the half shooting 16.7 percent from the floor, and would never get within five for the rest of the night.
“They’re a physical, blue-collar, tough-working team, and some of those [turnovers] were just like batting the ball out of our hands,” Delaney-Smith said. “That shouldn’t happen. They took care of the ball way better than we did.”
Harvard coughed the ball up 21 times, nearly twice as often as Penn did. The Quakers utilized their height in center Sydney Stipanovich and forward Courtney Wilson—both listed at 6’3”—to dominate down low, pulling down offensive boards and converting on the easy put-backs that the Crimson could not match.
The night opened with both teams trading shots in a tight contest. Harvard took a brief four-point lead eight minutes into the matchup off of five consecutive Clark points, but the Quakers quickly responded. A five-minute scoring drought allowed Penn to open up a nine-point advantage, its largest of the half.
Clark led the team in scoring with 12 points, while Fagbenle recorded her 13th double-double, with 10 points and 12 boards. Baron led the Quakers’ offensive attack with 18 points, 16 of which came before halftime.
—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LinSamnity.