The Harvard Crimson (19-4, 7-3 Ivy League) had split results this weekend, ultimately falling one victory short of sweeping the regular season series against the Gentlemen C’s. After a tough 58-55 win over the Columbia Lions (13-10, Ivy 3-7) on Friday night, the Crimson dropped Saturday afternoon’s game to the Cornell Big Red, 57-52. The loss was Harvard’s first to the Big Red (14-9, 5-5) since 2008.
CORNELL 57, HARVARD 52
Harvard, falling behind once again after a strong first half against an Ancient Eight opponent, was unable to recover late in the game and suffered a road loss against Cornell.
“Very disappointed. We didn’t show up on the offensive end, I’m not sure why but we struggled to score and it’s very perplexing,” coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “The people that you depend on just didn’t show up.”
Despite double digit points from budding guards freshman Katie Benzan and sophomore Madeline Raster, as well as co-captain Destiny Nunley, Harvard was unable to overcome the senior-heavy Big Red team. Statistically, the Crimson appeared to control the game, but it was the intangibles that plagued the youth squad.
“They know who they are going against, they’re going against a Cornell team that starts five seniors,” coach Delaney-Smith said. “There were periods of time where [Cornell] just wanted it more. I don’t know how to fix that—that [responsibility] belongs to the players. They have to get each other to not let that happen again.”
Heading into the second half, Harvard led 29-24 and seemed poised to put distance between them and the experienced Big Red. Earning a road victory in Ithaca, NY, eluded the team, however, as a poor shooting effort in the 3rd quarter brought Cornell within a single score of the Crimson. A mixture of uncharacteristically reserved shooting from Harvard and quality minutes from Cornell’s freshman guard Samantha Widmann resulted in the Big Red setting itself up for the comeback.
“We’ll have to get back to the drawing board and realize we have to play for 40 minutes,” Nunley said. “Sometimes we play for 25 minutes or 38 minutes, but not the whole 40—and that’s what it takes, especially in the Ivy League, where everybody is fighting for those top four spots in the tournament.”
The pressure of the moment appeared to get the best of the youthful Crimson squad, as it committed seven of its 17 personal fouls in the fourth quarter. Cornell took due advantage: after it sunk a three-pointer to take the lead with eight minutes remaining in the contest, the home team capped off the comeback on the play of Widmann and the senior starters. Widmann ended up scoring a season-high 15 points off the bench for the Big Red.
“This loss lit a fire under us, more so than other games that we’ve lost before,” Nunley said. “This Cornell loss is hard for us, and everybody is taking it to heart and looking in the mirror, asking themselves, ‘What is that I need to do better?’”
HARVARD 58, COLUMBIA 55
Harvard nearly fell victim to its inability to extend an early lead at Levien Gymnasium in New York City. However, Nunley’s dominant performance, along with quality play from Benzan and junior forward Taylor Rooks, allowed the Crimson to hold on for a nail-biter for its seventh Ivy League victory.
Nunley would nearly record a double-double, scoring 20 points and collecting seven boards. The play from the Texas native provided the boost that Harvard was looking for on a night where the usually prolific 3-point shooting was absent and many dependable players struggled.
“Things that we have been doing well all year long weren’t happening. We did really well defensively both nights,” Delaney-Smith said. “Offensively we lost our confidence; we lost our toughness; we really haven’t put 40 minutes together on the offensive end.”
Although the Crimson, for the most part, were able to control the game defensively, Columbia’s junior forward Camille Zimmerman had a big night against Harvard. Zimmerman recorded a double-double, scoring 28 points and collecting 12 rebounds. Zimmerman carried the home squad as she was the only player to record double digits in either points or rebounds.