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Notebook: Seniors Help Women's Basketball to Victory

By Troy Boccelli

For a team that brought in seven new recruits this past season, it was still the seniors that brought home the victory for the Harvard women’s basketball team (1-1) Wednesday night at Lavietes Pavilion. The Crimson’s three seniors combined for 41 points in a nail-biter 67-65 win over the University of Massachusetts (1-1).

UP AND UNDER

In a game that featured 13 lead changes, the Harvard offense seemed to finally come together on Wednesday night. While the Crimson only managed eight assists in a loss to Maine last Friday, the team dished out 21 against the visiting Minutewomen.

Coming into the fourth quarter down 45-46, Harvard matched UMass point for point in the dwindling minutes of the matchup. With nine of the 13 lead changes coming in the final quarter, the Crimson’s first win of the season was a gritty affair.

“It was back and forth and back and forth,” said senior Shilpa Tummala. “I think the one thing we weren’t was fearful of anything. We were playing the game full on no matter what happened. I think that as a young team sometimes we can get rattled and we didn’t do that and that was huge for us.”

Rotating out freshman Sydney Skinner, Nani Redford, and Madeline Raster at guard spot, head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith saw the rookies combine for eight assists and 12 points. With the rookie guards playing big minutes for Harvard, Delaney-Smith is taking time to ease them into her system.

“The worst thing we can do right now is over-coach,” Delaney Smith said. “We have some talented kids so we lose the skillset they already have, we lose the instincts they already have if we over-coach it.”

While the freshmen are starting to get comfortable in the rotation, the Crimson’s three seniors—AnnMarie Healy, Shilpa Tummala, and Kit Metoyer—were the story of the night. Scoring 29 of Harvard’s first 31 points and scoring all of the Crimson’s buckets in the second quarter, the three seniors are quickly becoming the backbone of Harvard’s offense.

BREAKING THE PRESS

After finishing the first period with a five-point lead, the Crimson struggled to get to the basket in the second quarter. With UMass double-teaming and pressing throughout the second half, the Crimson turned over the ball eight times. Of the Minutewomen’s 29 points in the first half, 18 came off turnovers from the Crimson.

Despite the difficult second quarter, Harvard managed to stop the bleeding in the second half of the game.

“I think our coaches did a really good job of telling us to use ball fakes, [and] our guards did a really good job of listening,” Tummala said. “It’s a mid-game change up, so it’s really huge that we have freshman guards that are capable of molding their games in the middle of the game and being able to implement those passing fakes mid-game without causing turnovers.”

Turning the ball over only four times and making big shots, the three rookies scored some big points for the Crimson down the stretch.

“There was some good stuff there, but I don’t know if it was drawn up,” Delaney-Smith said. “I’d like to say I could take credit for that but no. It was just young kids playing confidently and aggressively.”

Even as the squad adjusts to the new freshmen, Delaney-Smith is still working out different lineups. As a result of player turnover and injuries in the past two seasons, Delaney-Smith is still trying different rotations.

Despite coming in as a guard, Tummala has played at the four spot for the Crimson’s first two matchups. Playing in the post for the first time in her career, Tummala tied a career-high 17 points while adding five rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

“We got the ball inside; that and our defensive help and rotation was the best so far this year,” Delaney-Smith said. “Our rebounding was good, to be honest. The point of emphasis for us was getting the ball inside.”

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