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Women's Basketball Finishes 2017 with Comeback Victory

Benzan Time
Sophomore Katie Benzan dribbles during a game in March 2017.
In a back-and-forth affair in Lavietes Pavilion, a strong fourth quarter allowed Harvard women’s basketball to top Stony Brook, 60-53, on New Year’s Eve.

The Crimson took over with a 14-0 run late in the final period to run away from the Seawolves (8-5) in its final contest of the 2017 calendar year.

“It surprised me to see us start so slow,” coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “But we were able to come on strong in the fourth quarter.”

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Harvard (7-5) was led by senior guard Taylor Rooks, who racked up 18 points and five rebounds, and junior guard Sydney Skinner, who tallied a season-high 15 points off the bench.

“Sydney Skinner was battling some preseason injuries and I think we saw the real Sydney last night,” Delaney-Smith said. “I think she was the catalyst for the fourth quarter.”

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The Crimson’s 14-0 run in a span of less than six minutes gave it a seven point lead with only 2:30 to play. Harvard sealed its lead on free throws from Rooks and sophomore guard Katie Benzan.

“We kept it close, almost coasting, but then Kathy turned up the energy, turned up the heat, and turned up the intensity to get us to either stop their runs or increase our leads,” Benzan said.

Before the Crimson was able to take control late in the game, both teams kept it close in a tug-of-war battle. Harvard took a four point lead into the half following a strong second quarter in which it scored 18 points to Stony Brook’s 11.

“We really knew that they had a different style of plan,” Benzan said. “They were long and athletic, they liked to run, and we had a few shooters to worry about. We needed to come out and play our game and not their game.”

An 8-0 run led by a pair of three-pointers from Rooks early in the second carried the strong quarter from the Crimson.

The Seawolves fought back in the second half, taking a small 42-40 lead into the fourth quarter, in which Harvard took control following its impressive 14 point run.

“I just think our mentality changed, that we weren’t going to lose.” Benzan said.

The run was sparked following buckets from sophomore forward Jeannie Boehm and Rooks and three-pointers from Skinner and junior guard Madeline Raster.

“Offensively we just took what the defense gave us and didn’t rush anything or force anything,” Benzan said.

The Crimson turned the ball over 20 times against Stony Brook, marking the fourth straight game in which Harvard gave up the ball at least 16 times.

“Turnovers are still a huge problem for us,” Delaney-Smith said. “We’ll make some adjustments in practice and hopefully they’ll show.”

The 60-53 victory capped off a perfect 4-0 home campaign in non-conference play. The Crimson’s last loss at Lavietes Pavilion was March 4 last year against Penn.

Harvard’s win over the Seawolves concludes non-conference play, leading into the conference portion of the season.

“We’ve been waiting for the Ivy League for a long time now,” Benzan said. “Kathy says our basketball season is broken into two seasons, and we just finished the first.”

The Crimson finished its non-conference season 7-5, going only 1-4 on the road, rivaling its perfect 4-0 home record.

“This is the most important part of the season and I think our league is very, very strong,” Delaney-Smith said. “Everyone is doing very well so far this year. There isn’t an easy game on the entire Ivy League schedule.”

Coming off of back-to-back wins, Harvard will kick off the new year with conference play against Dartmouth.

“We learned a lot about ourselves and what we need to improve on,” Benzan said. “We learned what we need to improve on, how much we can do, and that we can and will win.”

—Staff writer Joseph W. Minatel can be reached at joseph.minatel@thecrimson.com.

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