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Despite leading Columbia for the majority of Friday night’s game, Harvard suffered a stinging loss to the Lions, who prevailed by a score of 62-57.
In its five-point defeat to Columbia, the Crimson extended its losing streak to four games, dropped to below .500 in Ivy League play, and endangered its chances at clinching a spot in the Ivy League Tournament, which Harvard will host in March.
Crimson players had plans going into Friday night’s game against the Lions, who trounced Harvard by 25 points in New York City earlier this month — dealing the Crimson its worst blow in conference play this season.
Freshman guard Lola Mullaney said she and her teammates were eager to return the favor to their Columbia opponents when the two teams faced off again. She said they prepared intensely in advance of Friday’s match-up.
“We were definitely excited because we were mad about the first time around when we played them,” she said. “Everyone was getting in the gym, getting up extra shots. And I think that showed in the beginning.”
In the first frame of Friday’s game, a Crimson victory looked likely.
Thanks to sharp downtown shooting from Mullaney and sophomore guard Tess Sussman, Harvard led the Lions by a score of 34-27 going into halftime. Sussman scored an efficient 17 points in Friday night’s game, shooting nearly 67 percent from the field and swishing four triples. Mullaney, who finished Friday’s game with 20 points, had a comfortable 13 points in the first half, which already surpassed her 12 point performance against Columbia earlier this month.
On the defensive end, Harvard held Columbia’s freshman guard Abbey Hsu to just one basket in the first half. Hsu dropped a career-high 31 points against the Crimson in the teams’ initial match-up this season.
Hsu would not stay quiet for long, however.
In the third quarter, Columbia steadily erased its deficit by increasing its intensity on both ends of the floor. On defense, Columbia came out in a full court press that tricked Harvard’s guards into walking into traps at half court. Taking advantage of Crimson turnovers, the Lions’ guards pushed the ball on offense and scored in transition, demonstrating creativity and care with the basketball.
Columbia’s fast-paced play forced the Crimson into a state of chaos and brought the game within one point heading into the final quarter.
And then, with the game tied at 50, Hsu made two consecutive plays that determined the fate of Friday’s competition. She drilled a pair of back-to-back three pointers from the right wing that iced the Lions’ second victory over the Crimson this season.
Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said she considered those six points to be the nail in the Crimson’s coffin against Columbia.
“We made two huge errors at the end of the game that I think cost us the game and it was letting [No.] 35 [Hsu] shoot those threes,” she said.
Harvard currently sits in fifth place in the Ivy League conference, which only sends its top four teams to the Ivy League Tournament. Held in Cambridge next month, the tournament will decide which Ancient Eight team gets to dance its way to the NCAA Tournament.
Delaney-Smith said she told her players after Friday night’s loss to keep fighting.
“I just said I'm counting on you to be resilient and strong and get ready for tomorrow night,” she said. “And it's not over till the fat lady sings and it’s not over. The fat lady’s not even in the room yet.”
Mullaney said Delaney-Smith’s post-game remarks resonated with her.
“We're definitely a team that's not just going to give up,” she said.
Harvard will play its last home game of the regular season against Cornell at Lavietes Pavilion tomorrow evening. Tip off is slated for 5 p.m.
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