The Crimson topped Jacksonville State (2-2) in its first game and easily dispatched CSUN (2-4) in the tournament final. Junior guard Katie Benzan and sophomore forward Jadyn Bush were both named to the All-Tournament team, and Bush also earned MVP honors for her efforts.
The award carried a little extra meaning for Bush, a Washington native.
“It was special to me...because being that the tournament was on the West Coast, my immediate family was able to come,” said the force of the Harvard frontcourt. “It was the first college basketball that some of my family members had seen me play in person, and this past weekend meant a lot to me.”
Harvard 75, CSUN 55
Harvard played excellent defense on CSUN, holding the Matadors to a paltry 25.4 percent from the field. Skinner kicked off the Crimson’s blitz with a triple following the tip, and Harvard never looked back. It led wire-to-wire on the strength of hot shooting up and down the lineup.
The Crimson led 22-8 after the first quarter and turned on cruise control, holding as much as a 17-point edge. CSUN tried to sneak back late in the second quarter, pulling within 10, but Benzan nailed a dagger three with thirty seconds left in the half to essentially put the game away for good.
Bush was the story of the game, racking up another 17 points in addition to 15 rebounds, three assists, and a block. Like Benzan, she deferred praise to her fellow cagers.
“My success...I would attribute to my teammates,” she said. “I can think of specific plays where they trusted me and got me the ball.”
Harvard took advantage of the Matadors’ misses and ran up a strong rebound tally with 43. Bush’s career-high 15 led the way for the Crimson.
“CSUN had a poor shooting game, so I had a heightened rebounding mentality,” Bush said.
Katie Benzan poured in 17 more, and the dynamic duo of Raster and Skinner put up 12 and 14, respectively. All told, four of the starting five broke into double digits.
The Crimson will look to carry its momentum into its next games. Jadyn Bush highlighted improving chemistry as a key driver of Harvard’s recent success.
“After our loss against Hartford, [Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith] challenged us to come outside of ourselves and give our teammates the energy and communication we need,” Bush said. “I think the most important thing we can carry forward is a team-first mentality.”
Harvard can put that advice to the test on its upcoming four-game homestand. First up is a duel with Quinnipiac back in the friendly confines of Lavietes Pavilion on Nov. 30.
Harvard 69, Jacksonville State 62
Bush led Harvard with 18 points against Jacksonville State, including 10 in the first quarter alone, and Benzan wasn’t far behind with 15 points on an efficient 5-of-8 from the field.
The Crimson was crashing the glass all night, grabbing 46 boards to the Gamecocks’ 37. The rebounding helped Harvard post an impressive 38 points in the paint and ultimately claim the victory.
Jacksonville State hung around for all 40 minutes, but the Crimson didn’t have much trouble staving off the Gamecocks’ dogged comeback attempts.
Katie Benzan knocked down a trey with 7:38 remaining in the second quarter to give Harvard a lead it would never relinquish. The Wellesley, Mass., sharpshooter would finish the game 3-for-6 from downtown.
The Crimson started the contest stingy on defense, and Jacksonville State managed just two points in the first three minutes of the West Coast showdown. The Gamecocks quickly regained their poise, though, and climbed back into the game before opening up a double-digit lead in the late in the first quarter.
Harvard then ripped off a 12-0 run capped by Benzan’s clutch hit from beyond the arc, and outscored Jacksonville State 18-8 in the second quarter. Benzan credited her teammates for her strong performance.
“They found me when I was open,” the junior said. “I was just fortunate to knock down shots. Everyone had a role to play to succeed and everyone did their job to win.”
Sophomore guard Rachel Levy added 11 points for the Crimson, and captain guards Madeline Raster and Sydney Skinner combined for 12 more.
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