Balanced Effort Leads Women's Basketball to Comeback Victory over NJIT

With less than 12 minutes remaining in the first half of their game against NJIT, the Harvard women’s basketball team found itself facing a 16-point deficit and in desperate need of a jolt of energy. And so Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith changed things up, replacing all five players on the court in an effort to rally the Crimson in their final non-conference matchup.

The strategy proved to be successful, as Harvard (7-8, 0-1 Ivy) reignited on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor on its way to a hard-fought 66-54 victory over NJIT (8-11). The Crimson was particularly aided by contributions from its bench players, as ten different players logged over 10 minutes in the contest.

“I don’t like that slow start, I don’t like that we went down, but I loved our reaction to it,” Delaney-Smith said. “I just put in kids who had never played yet, and I didn’t care because they were going to go out there with heart and soul and desire, and that’s all I’m looking for…. Even though the basketball was questionable at times, I still loved the effort.”

Sophomore Grace Keane made the most of the opportunity, draining a three-pointer midway through the first half in her first appearance this season. The tally sparked a 22-4 run for Harvard, and the croup slowly chipped away at the Highlanders’ lead for the remainder of the period. Captain Erin McDonnell nailed a jump shot to give the Crimson its first lead of the game with less than two minutes remaining in the half, and then Harvard headed into the break tied, 33-33.

“We had the momentum at that point,” McDonnell said. “So then it’s, ‘Okay, look, it’s zero to zero, new game, let’s come out like we did halfway through the first half….We were more aggressive on defense, we tried to be smarter on offense and execute our plays.”


The Crimson started off the second half with a renewed energy on offense, allowing NJIT to regain the lead just once, at 36-35, before pulling away and never looking back. After struggling to contain the Highlanders’ shooting throughout the first half, Harvard’s defense also stepped up, turning up the pressure with a full-court press that threw the visiting team off their rhythm.

“I think [the comeback] was a big testament to the character and heart of our team,” McDonnell said. “Everybody stepped up, we used all of our weapons, and…we played with more heart, too. Winning the 50-50s, rebounds, loose balls, all of that generated a lot of positive energy.”

Senior Temi Fagbenle led the charge for the Crimson in the second half, scoring 15 of her team-leading 22 points and pulling down six rebounds after halftime. Fellow seniors McDonnell and Ali Curtis chipped in 10 and nine points, respectively, but it was freshman Anna Lachenauer who impressed in the absence of junior AnnMarie Healy, who sat out the contest after leading Harvard in scoring last week against Dartmouth. The freshman scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in a career-high performance.

“[AnnMarie] has been immense, was time for Anna Lachenauer to step up,” Delaney-Smith said. “She’s a heck of a player, we’re just waiting for her to bust out and do that in a game, and she came close today. She did a nice job for us today, especially for a freshman.”

Despite a valiant effort by NJIT, a 8-1 run by Harvard, fueled by six points from Lachenauer, put the game comfortably out of the visitors’ reach with eight minutes left to play. Sophomore Leah Horton and senior Nicole Maticka led the Highlanders with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

“[Today’s game] was exactly what the doctor ordered for us,” Delaney-Smith said. “There’s a lot of lessons we need to get taught....never be bothered by anything, don’t let anything set you back on your heels…. I thought we did that better today than in any game so far.”

—Staff writer Glynis K. Healey can be reached at


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