The co-captain’s layup was one of many pure effort plays early on for the Crimson, who made a statement to open Ivy League play. Harvard (8-6, 1-0 Ivy) shut out Dartmouth 14-0 in the first quarter en route to a comfortable 56-46 win at Lavietes Pavilion on Saturday.
It was clear throughout the game that the home side came ready to play. The Crimson blitzed Dartmouth from the start and finished the first half up 27-7. Junior Mackenzie Barta hit a catch-and-shoot three from the top of the key with time expiring, a big shot that served as a fitting coda to Harvard’s dominant half. The Big Green (7-7, 0-1) looked unable to keep up early on, though they looked much better after halftime, winning the third quarter 27-12 and cutting the Crimson’s lead to five points before Harvard regained control of the game in the fourth quarter and secured its fourth consecutive win.
“I just think the pieces are falling into the right places and at the right time,” said junior point guard Katie Benzan.
Junior Jeannie Boehm set the tone on both ends of the court, leading the Crimson with 12 points and 13 rebounds and adding two steals and two blocks. She was an integral part of Harvard’s domination both defensively and on the glass. The Crimson out-rebounded the Big Green 50-34, with 18 of those rebounds coming on the offensive end. Harvard gobbled up more than half of its own missed shots, more evidence that the team played with a lot of effort on Saturday.
The Crimson held Dartmouth to just 29% shooting from the field and an abysmal 19% from beyond the arc. Senior forward Isalys Quinones, the Big Green’s leading scorer, was held to just three points and three rebounds — largely thanks to a tremendous defensive effort by Harvard forwards Boehm and sophomore Jadyn Bush.
While the Crimson was dominant defensively, it did not look like the team that scored 80 and 85 points at Rhode Island and California respectively on the offensive end. Harvard shot a combined 50% from the floor and 44% from three and turned the ball over just 19 total times in the two impressive road wins that ended an up-and-down non-conference performance.
That offensive efficiency was nowhere to be found against Dartmouth’s tough defense, which allows just a shade over 58 points per game, making it the stingiest defense in the Ivy League. The Crimson shot just 37% from the floor Saturday and turned the ball over 23 times, their most since a double-overtime thriller against Quinnipiac at the end of November.
Given those team-wide offensive struggles, it is no surprise that Harvard’s offensive engine, Benzan, had a subpar offensive game Saturday, shooting just 1-of-8 from the field and 1-of-6 from three point range. The Crimson’s point guard and leading scorer was held way below her season averages, finishing with a meager five points and two assists.
Harvard was resilient enough to win despite its star’s down offensive game. Benzan was thrilled to leave the game with a comfortable double-digit victory.
“It always feels good to start off [league play] with a win,” Benzan said. “It gives us a confidence boost into this coming weekend.”
The Crimson will hope to build on its defensive success and improve its offense next Saturday in a rematch with Dartmouth. Harvard will look to start off 2-0 in the league and to complete a season sweep of the Big Green. The Crimson will be seeking to avenge last season’s seven point loss at Dartmouth, its first loss in Hanover since 2013. If Harvard can combine its efficient performances at Rhode Island and California with its stellar defense and rebounding in this game, it will be a real threat to win its first Ivy League title since it shared the honors with the Big Green in 2008.
— Staff writer Lev Cohen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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