The last time the Harvard women’s basketball team faced off against Rice was 28 years ago. Almost three decades later on Saturday night, the outcome was the same: Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith came away with another win, this time in her 34th season at the helm.
Facing a winless Rice squad (0-5), the women’s basketball team came away with a close victory in Houston on Saturday night, 67-61. For the second game in a row, the Crimson (4-2) sealed the win at the free throw line. Scoring their last eight at the charity stripe, Harvard pulled away despite two late threes from the Owls.
“We started the fourth quarter real strong,” Delaney-Smith said. “I was very proud at the team’s reaction and response at the swing of momentum and our toughness to get it back.
“We played a great fourth quarter, and we were able to hang on at the end regardless of the calls and regardless of the swings of the game,” she added. “We just hung tough, particularly on the defensive end.”
The Crimson outshot Rice 25-16 in the fourth quarter with 11 of co-captain AnnMarie Healy’s 13 coming in the last 10 minutes of the game. After a third quarter in which Harvard ceded 22 points on .500 shooting from the Owls, the Crimson entered the final frame trailing by three after it had led by as much as 12.
In a game that featured four lead changes and long runs from both teams, Harvard rallied when it mattered most. After a 14-2 run from Rice late in the third, the Crimson bounced back with a huge fourth quarter. Despite being double-teamed for much of the match, the trio of seniors—Healy, Shilpa Tummala, and Kit Metoyer—went off for 17 in the game’s final 10 minutes as Harvard pulled away late for the win.
“Basketball is a game of runs, and it’s just really responding to them that makes a good team,” Healy said. “I think that as we develop as a team this year we’re going to just become more consistent throughout each quarter and each half and each game.”
The Crimson jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter, shooting lights out from beyond the arc and getting easy buckets inside. Harvard took a quick 20-12 lead after the first 10 minutes, but in the second frame, both teams struggled to score.
Despite out-rebounding the Owls and turning the ball over less, the Crimson could not seem to put the ball in the basket in the second quarter. After shooting 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in the first quarter, Harvard missed all five attempts from deep in the second quarter.
“We did take an early lead, and then they changed—Rice decided to come at us with a lot of pressure,” Delaney-Smith said. “They were double teaming, they jumped passing lanes, and they just upped the pressure on us, which caused us to get back on our heels a little bit and took away our ability to execute some of our offensive sets.”
Despite a difficult second quarter that saw the Crimson shoot 4-for-15 from the field, Harvard ended the half with a seven-point lead, 30-27. Despite being outscored by 10 in the third, the Crimson rallied to start the fourth quarter on a 13-2 run before closing out the win at the free throw line.
The points at the free throw line would be imperative, as the Crimson went 15 of 21 from the line, while Rice missed some crucial free throws, going 8-for-20 at the charity stripe.
“Everything really came together,” Healy said. “I think that as a team it really came down to getting more defensive rebounds, boxing out, and being slow and controlled on offense.”
Saturday’s game marked the first time this season that four of Harvard’s players scored in double-digits.
With the victory, the Crimson has extended its winning streak to three games. Harvard has three more games prior to winter break.
—Staff writer Troy Boccelli can be reached at email@example.com.
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