Whatever the Harvard women’s basketball team did to rectify its cold shooting at the Palestra last week seems to have done the trick.
Fueled by hot shooting Friday night against Brown (7-12, 1-4 Ivy) and tough defense against Yale (10-10, 4-2), the Crimson (15-5, 5-1) finished off its four-game road trip with wins and now sits atop the Ivy League with sole possession of first place.
“This weekend was huge,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “It’s the toughest part of our schedule. We still have to go to Cornell and Columbia, but I love where we are, in first place alone. We still have to take it one game at a time. Anything can happen.”
HARVARD 58, YALE 57
Clinging to a three-point lead with 14 seconds left, the Crimson saw it dwindle down to one as Yale guard Sarah Halejian knocked down two free throws. Harvard senior guard Jasmine Evans couldn’t hang on to the ball on her team’s ensuing possession, and the Bulldogs suddenly had a chance to snatch the win.
As it had done all night, Yale fed the ball to sharpshooting Halejian, but defensive pressure forced her to take an errant three, and the victory was Harvard’s, 58-57.
“Talk about a team win,” co-captain Christine Clark said. “So many people stepped up in so many important ways and just came together so well. I think [Harvard men’s basketball coach] Tommy Amaker said it, but the Ivy League is won on Saturday nights, so it feels great to get this win.”
Halejian, who notched 29 points in last season’s loss to Harvard, burned the Crimson with 19 points in the first half, giving Yale an eight-point advantage heading into halftime.
But junior forward Erin McDonnell wasn’t about to let Harvard drop another Saturday game. McDonnell scored 10 straight on a 10-5 Crimson run early in the second half to give the visitors the lead for the first time in over 20 minutes of play.
The Bulldogs responded with a three from forward Janna Graf and kept it tight down the stretch, not allowing Harvard to build more than a seven-point lead. Though the Crimson wasn’t able to replicate its 60-percent shooting performance from the night before, an amped-up second-half defense kept the home team from ever making up the deficit. Halejian was held to just eight points after the break.
“They have a really nice player in Halejian, and she had the game of her life,” Delaney-Smith said. “Our defense is good, and they just stayed in and shot, played unbelievable…. We just played our hearts out, and the game was won on incredible team defense, and individual defense by [senior forward] Missy Mullins in particular.”
McDonnell tied her season high in scoring with 17 points—15 of which came in the second half—and notched her first double-double by adding 11 boards. Evans poured in 11 points from the bench, and Clark joined her in double figures with 10.
HARVARD 91, BROWN 71
After shooting a season-low 18.3 percent from the field against Penn, the Crimson nearly quadrupled its offensive production in the first half against the Bears, totaling 53 points before the break. The 20-point margin heading into halftime proved too much for the home team to overcome, and Harvard notched its fourth Ivy win at the Pizzitola Sports Center, 91-71.
“Everybody was hitting wide-open threes,” Delaney-Smith said. “We were on in the Brown game. That’s not a surprising comeback after what happened at Penn…. I think it was only fitting that we prove to ourselves that we can shoot."