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Despite a big fourth-quarter rally from Harvard women’s basketball (15-9 overall, 8-4 Ivy League), Columbia (20-4 overall, 9-2 Ivy League) left Lavietes Pavilion the victor with a 75-70 win last Friday night.
This tight play with the Lions, who share the league lead with Princeton (19-5 overall, 10-2 Ivy League), prepped the Crimson well, however, as they handed Cornell (10-15 overall, 3-9 Ivy League) a decisive 86-59 loss just the next day.
On Friday, head coach Carrie Moore’s crew will head to Princeton seeking a series sweep against a faltering conference powerhouse.
The matchup last Friday night between Harvard and Columbia was the sequel to an 82-56 Columbia win on January 14. This time, though the result was the same, the story was very different: one of four ties and nine lead changes. And a big comeback effort that made for a close game down the stretch.
“The biggest thing I'm most proud of is the fight at the end,” Moore said. “We continued to fight and claw back.”
After battling a lid on the basket for the third quarter that left them shooting only 25% from the field and outscored 26-11, the Crimson’s fight produced 33 fourth-quarter points. This impressive final push was fueled in large part by the play of sophomore guard Harmoni Turner. She poured in four made jumpers, two free throws, two assists, a steal, and a three, all within the ten-minute frame.
Another big contributor on the home team was junior guard Lola Mullaney, leading the team with 22 points on the night. The Rumson, N.J. native was also the star of a pregame ceremony honoring her entrance into the 1,000-point club during a game at Yale earlier in the month.
Mullaney was excited about her “huge accomplishment,” adding, “it was just a really cool moment to share with my teammates especially, and then getting that win at Yale was really exciting.”
Saturday’s matinee proved less of a thrill, as Harvard ran away from the visitors from Ithaca early in the game.
Trading baskets in the first ten minutes left Cornell ahead 14-12, but a long ball from Turner just before the midway point in quarter two put the Crimson ahead for good.
Harvard played a strong all-around game: it tallied 34 points in the paint, while also shooting 51% from beyond the arc, and receiving 25 points from players off the bench. Five players contributed double digits, senior guard McKenzie Forbes with 20, 17 from senior guard Maggie McCarthy, 16 from Turner, 12 from sophomore guard Elena Rodriguez, and ten from Mullaney.
With this win against Cornell, Harvard secured a spot in the March Ivy Madness Tournament, while moving to 75-12 in the teams’ all-time series. In the tournament last year, Harvard fell to Princeton in a five-point heartbreak game.
Harvard has been preparing for its game against Princeton this Friday, which will be an important indicator of how it needs to change its game for the Ivy League tournament. In the history of Harvard vs. Princeton women’s basketball games, 91 in total, the Tigers have won 46 to Harvard’s 45 games.
The Crimson has the momentum necessary to even the series, snapping Princeton’s 42-game Ivy League win streak on December 31 with a 67-59 win. But to complete a season sweep of the reigning Ivy champs – a goal elusive since 2009 – the team is focused on unity and confidence.
“We’ve got to be connected. We've got to come together and stick together and listen to one another and trust one another, and communicate with one another,” the head coach emphasized.
“We just have to come in with the same amount of confidence we did the first time and just stick to the game plan our coaches gave us.”
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