The Harvard women’s basketball team has become the team to beat in the Ivy League. With Ancient Eight play in full swing it is apparent that the Crimson (16-1, 4-0 Ivy) is getting its opponent's best shot. No matter the scheme or personnel Harvard is a team that refuses to go down. The Columbia Lions (11-6, 1-3 Ivy) threw its best punch, but Harvard again came out on top with a final score of 70 - 68.
“I’m still amazed that these group of people find a way to win,” Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “You know what, a win's a win, and we have a lot to correct on Monday.”
The Lions had four different players score double digit points to Crimson’s three. Columbia also shot 40 percent from the field, made 86 percent of its free throws, and matched Harvard in the rebound margin. Despite the Lions statistically superior game, the only statistic that would count was the final score.
The Crimson are relieved, but far from satisfied with the late game victory in Lavietes Pavilion.
“We’re pretty disappointed we let them come back because we had a lead,” sophomore guard Madeline Raster said. “We were tough at the end, played good defense and just happy to get the W.”
No one was much happier than Raster at the end of the game as she scored the game winning shot with only 4 seconds left on the clock to give Harvard its 16th straight win. With the win the Crimson stays undefeated in the Ivy League, and continues its historic season spearheaded by a young and spirited squad.
A crucial call in the closing minute gave Columbia the ball, and with the opportunity the Lions ran an inbounds play to perfection. A lob pass to junior forward Camille Zimmerman gave her an easy tip in to tie the score at 68 points with 24 seconds left to go. Coach Delaney-Smith called a timeout and planned for the South Bend native to take the final shot for Harvard.
With eight seconds left Raster drove hard to the lane, stopped on a dime, and sunk the game winner from the free throw line.
“When Murph took that last shot, no doubt in my mind, I knew that was going in,” freshman Jeannie Boehm said.
The Lions, coming off a 4 OT victory over the Dartmouth in Hanover the night before, looked like the well-rested home team in the opening minutes of Saturday night’s Ivy League matchup. Columbia went up by eight in the first quarter and Harvard did not score a bucket until 6 minutes into the contest.
“On offense we are out of sync and rhythm,” Coach Delaney-Smith said. “We have to go back to the drawing board and see what offenses work best, and see how we can best extend the lead.”
Going into the half the Crimson was up 39 - 27, but despite the comfortable lead Harvard was unable to capitalize and earn the dominant lead that has alluded it in Ivy League matchups.
“It was a tough one. I think as a team we need to work on extending our lead. We were up 12 at half,” Boehm said. “I think it says a lot about our heart that we came back and got a win.”
The play and leadership of the underclassmen was undeniable as the young front and backcourt lead the team in scoring. Freshmen Katie Benzan and Boehm both scored 20 points, and Raster scored 18. The 6’3” forward also collected eight rebounds, and blocked three shots in route to another gritty win for Harvard.
The game left many to scratch their heads and wonder what it will take to knock off the Crimson. The Quakers of Penn may prove to have that answer. Coming into the season University of Pennsylvania was predicted to win the Ivy League title, but Harvard has now made itself into a legitimate competitor for that crown.
“In the performance cycle of things you have peaks and plateaus, and I believe we plateaued,” Coach Delaney-Smith said. “I’m hopeful that we are gearing up to take that next step.”
—Staff writer Stuart Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.