Harvard women’s basketball catapulted into first place in the Ivy League on the heels of an 85-67 domination of Columbia. Thanks to a 13-0 run late in the third quarter and a whopping 57 points in the paint, the Crimson (12-6, 4-1 Ivy) was able to pull away from the Lions (7-13, 1-4) to notch its fifth straight win, making Harvard 9-0 at home on the year.
“We had some beautiful leakouts and did a nice job getting it into Jeannie [Boehm],” Delaney-Smith said of the points in the paint. “I was pretty happy about that.”
A third quarter run separated the Crimson from its competition on Friday night. Following two scoreless minutes, junior guard Nani Redford extended Harvard’s lead back to nine with a transition three to make the game 57-48. Redford then found senior guard Taylor Rooks on a fastbreak, the latter hitting the layup to finish off the play. On the next two possessions, sophomore guard Katie Benzan and junior guard Sydney Skinner went back-to-back from beyond the arc to make the game 65-48 Crimson, forcing Columbia to call a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, the Lions hit a three-pointer to finally end Harvard’s run at 13 straight points. Skinner would answer with a layup before the buzzer to make the game 67-51 heading into the final quarter.
“That’s what we’re capable of,” Delaney-Smith said. “It doesn’t matter who scores, we have enough people who can score on many levels.”
The offensive glass proved important in the early going. The Crimson nabbed six offensive rebounds in the first quarter, while Columbia was unable to grab a single offensive board. This allowed the home team to account for 11 second chance points in the opening period alone, a big reason for its 27-18 lead going into the second quarter.
The Lions’ deficiencies under their own basket showed again in the second quarter, as Harvard junior co-captain Madeline Raster grabbed her own rebound on the other side of the basket following a missed jumper from the baseline. The second time was good enough, as she converted on her own second chance by hitting the layup on the opposite block to make the score 36-25 Crimson halfway through the second period.
Although both teams had a hard time finding the bottom of the net early, the offenses came alive midway through the first quarter. With 6:06 left in the first period, Harvard led 4-2. Exactly two minutes later when the Crimson called its first timeout, the score was 15-12. Rooks found her stroke, hitting two straight three-pointers. Columbia answered with two threes of its own, but Benzan tilted the scales back to Harvard with yet another three-pointer. Benzan would finish the game with a team-high 20 points.
After the two teams traded 5-0 runs, senior co-captain Kirby Porter answered a Lions three-pointer with a three of her own. The teams continued to trade baskets, keeping the score difference at 11 points with only 30 seconds left in the half. Following a bucket by sophomore forward Jeannie Boehm, Columbia was able to finally strike on the offensive glass with its last possession of the half. Despite the Lions grabbing two offensive rebounds on this final possession, the Crimson denied a buzzer-beating basket both times as the clock ticked down, making the score 46-33 at the half.
“We just blew by them and got into the paint really easily,” Benzan said. “We have so many threats on the outside and attacking the rim on the inside.”
Harvard continued its dominance of the paint into the second half, starting off with three layups and a block from Boehm. Columbia, however, was able to keep up by knocking down four threes and two jump shots in the first four minutes of the half to cut its deficit to four, 52-48 Crimson.
“It was never in jeopardy in my opinion,” Delaney-Smith said.
Coming off of its huge third quarter run, Harvard sped up the pace in the fourth quarter with early fast break layups by Redford and Skinner to extend the lead to twenty points. The Crimson managed to cruise the rest of the way, eliciting cheers for Harvard President Drew G. Faust, who was honored at the start of the game, to enter the contest. Unfortunately, Faust did not see any playing time.
—Staff writer Joseph W. Minatel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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