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Following a statement win last week against rival Yale, Harvard women’s basketball (12-8, 5-2 Ivy) continued its road trip this weekend, traveling to New York for marquee matchups against the Columbia Lions (15-5, 6-1) and Cornell Big Red (7-12, 1-6). The weekend presented the Crimson with a key opportunity to solidify its spot in the Ivy League Tournament coming this March. Harvard fought valiantly in a tough matchup against Columbia before ultimately succumbing in a 82-70 defeat, snapping Harvard’s three-game win streak. The Crimson recovered from the setback, besting the Big Red 63-52 to earn third place outright in the Ivy League.
Harvard 70, Columbia 82
Entering Friday's pivotal matchup at Schiller Court, both squads were locked in a three-way tie for second place in the Ivy League. The two teams duked it out in the Big Apple before Columbia ultimately pulled away in the second half. Sophomore forward Katie Krupa’s 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting helped keep Harvard in the game. The Crimson may have suffered a bigger defeat than the actual loss though in the second half, when it saw junior forward Elena Rodriguez leave the game due to injury. She would not appear for the rest of the road trip.
The Lions hit the ground running early, scoring immediately after winning the tip. This fueled a quick 15-6 lead, causing a timeout from Harvard coach Carrie Moore to regroup. Junior guard Harmoni Turner ignited the offense by dishing an assist to Krupa then nailing a difficult and-one at the rim, cutting the lead to 19-15. “Coach Moore does a great job of explaining what we must execute to adjust mid-game,” said Krupa. “That is vital to our responses as a team in order to shift momentum.” However, Harvard’s offense stalled as Columbia closed the quarter strong with a 9-2 run punctuated by a triple off a jab step by senior guard Abbey Hsu.
Harvard’s shooting flourished in the second quarter, beginning with a Krupa triple. A contested three-pointer by Hsu was immediately negated by a Turner deep ball. Krupa nailed another triple then knocked a couple from the charity stripe, reducing the deficit to 35-30. Senior guard Lola Mullaney pitched in another triple, assisted by Rodriguez. The Crimson then held the Lions scoreless for the last two minutes of the period, drawing even at 42-42 entering halftime.
The deadlock continued into the third quarter until a Hsu three-pointer put Columbia up 47-44. Following the basket, Rodriguez exited the game with an injury and Harvard’s defense noticeably slipped. Junior forward Mona Zaric stepped in as a replacement and knocked down a critical three-pointer later in the quarter, pulling within three points. Columbia dominated for the rest of the third, cutting down on their turnovers to end the period with a 65-55 lead.
The Harvard offense flowed through Mullaney and Krupa in the final stanza, starting with a Krupa layup. Off of their pick and roll action, Krupa was able to spot up for an open triple to get within five points, but that would be the closest the Crimson got to evening the score. Mullaney followed up with a layup and triple assisted by Turner to cut the lead to 74-68. However, Columbia shut the comeback effort down with an 8-2 run, making the final score 82-70 and solidifying their second-place spot in the Ivy League.
Harvard 63, Cornell 52
The team then traveled to Ithaca, N.Y. for an opportunity to rediscover its winning ways against Cornell. Krupa continued her run of stellar performances, notching a 24 point, 10 rebound double-double en route to a comfortable 63-52 victory.
Krupa started the Crimson’s scoring, muscling her way in the paint for a tough basket. Turner contributed an assist in transition and back-to-back floaters to give Harvard a quick 8-4 advantage. Krupa added four more points to her total as the two teams traded baskets throughout the period, ending with Harvard sporting a 17-13 lead.
The second quarter saw heightened defensive intensity, exemplified by Big Red inducing a two and a half minute scoring drought on the Crimson to begin the period. Krupa ended Harvard’s struggles with a difficult and-one, but Cornell managed to even the game at 20-20. Krupa continued to propel the Harvard offense, assisting Zaric on a jumper and knocking down a deep three-pointer. Cornell’s offense stalled for three minutes, finally responding with a triple of its own and cutting the lead to 25-23. A pair of Harvard baskets made the halftime score 29-23.
Krupa continued her offensive excellence in the third quarter, scoring all of Harvard’s first 10 points in the period, extending its lead to 39-28. A Krupa assist to Zaric and a Mullaney three-pointer led to the largest lead of the night, 44-31. Cornell scored the last four points to end the quarter down 44-36.
Cornell continued to fight and claw its way back into the game in the fourth quarter, cutting Harvard’s lead to 51-47 with 6:31 remaining. Big Red would never get closer, and a nearly four-minute long scoreless window ended the comeback attempt. Late free throws and timely baskets earned the Crimson a 63-52 victory.
Krupa’s standout performances this weekend reflect her positive development throughout the season and are a major cause for optimism for the team. She has eclipsed the 20-point mark in three out of her last four outings.
The sophomore star explained her success as the result of “coupling both my teammates’ and coaches’ trust in me along with plenty of reps outside of practice.” “I was able to step up and hit some big shots this weekend when I knew my team needed it,” she said.
Harvard remains in control of its own destiny and will travel to Hanover, N.H. for its final game of this four-game road stretch to battle Dartmouth this Saturday, February 10 at 2:00 PM EST. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.
—Staff writer Oscar E. Mercado can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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