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Men, Women Poised to Win

By Brian A. Campos, Crimson Staff Writer

If you haven’t been to Lavietes Pavilion yet this season, shame on you.

The 2010-11 Harvard basketball season is past the midway point of the schedule, and so far, both the men’s and women’s squads have been electrifying at home. The Crimson men boast a perfect 8-0 record at Lavietes, while their female counterparts only have one blemish—a close loss to Sacred Heart on Dec. 22—out of the six games played across the Charles.

Each team has had its fair share of challenging opponents at Lavietes. In its second game at home, the men’s team faced Colorado on Nov. 28 in front of an audience that included several NBA scouts, watching the play of two Buffalo guards: senior Cory Higgins and sophomore Alec Burks. Instead, junior co-captain Keith Wright upstaged the show, putting up 19 points to go along with nine rebounds to lead the Crimson to its first win against a Big 12 opponent. Harvard had previously been 0-11 against teams from that conference.

Dartmouth played the role of the victim against the women’s squad last week for a pivotal home game that denoted the start of the Ivy League campaign for both teams.

Last year, a defiant Big Green squad used a one-point margin to upset Harvard in Hanover, N.H. The Crimson, determined to not let this happen again, showed it from the beginning of the contest all the way to the very end, keeping many of its starters on the court throughout the game to drive the message home.

“Dartmouth is our biggest rival and has been for the past 30 years,” said junior point guard Brogan Berry after the game. “It was just important to come out hard and keep the energy going.”

“We were putting a lot of pride on the line, [especially after] we were upset by them in the first game last year,” added Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith.

The home team used that loss as motivation to humiliate the Big Green, 82-49. As the women’s basketball beat writer, I knew how much bad blood there is between these two teams.  And to see the Crimson squad keep widening the margin of victory throughout the second half proved to me that Harvard is all serious business this year.

After all, two key players in the starting lineup, co-captain Christine Matera and forward Emma Markley, are playing their last seasons in a the Crimson jersey. Matera, an innate sharpshooter, has been critical to the offense, helping spread out an opponent’s defense with her threat from beyond the arc.

Markley has been the stalwart leader of the pack, leading the team in scoring the last two seasons and still averaging 12.9 points this season, tied second on the team with sophomore forward Victoria Lippert. The senior also averages 5.9 boards—first on the team.

What has come as a pleasant surprise is the emergence of rookie Christine Clark, who has posted double-digit scoring figures in 11 of the 15 games she has played this season. Now a starter, Clark has proved herself as an asset to the team.

Lippert, on the other hand, has moved out of the starting rotation, not because of a decreased level of play but as a strategic move by Delaney-Smith.

“Starting doesn’t mean what the world thinks it means,” the coach said. “I place a lot of value on [the] sixth player. To be honest with you, what I found [before] was that I had five scorers starting, and no scorers coming off the bench.

“It looks stupid, [but] it’s the most brilliant move in the world. I think it’s helped this team immensely, and I think Victoria is playing better [because of this].”

The strategy seems to be paying off—the Crimson has won four out of its last five, with Lippert coming off the bench to provide that scoring spark.

So whether it’s to see the women’s squad or the men’s team take on Ivy League foes the rest of the season, make sure to make it across the Charles to join in the excitement of Harvard basketball. Now is the time, especially for the women’s team, to make large strides in taking home the Ivy title.

—Staff writer Brian A. Campos can be reached at bcampos@fas.harvard.edu.

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