The Crimson (13-13, 7-7) traveled to Hanover, N.H. to square off against the Big Green (3-23, 2-12) in a must win game to keep their Ivy Madness hopes alive. Harvard responded to the pressure in dominant fashion, crushing their conference rivals by a 33-point margin. Senior guard Tess Sussman led the team with a career-high 25 points, shooting an efficient 10-for-13 on her field goal attempts. Junior guard McKenzie Forbes and sophomore guard Lola Mullaney also scored double figures, tallying 17 and 13 points respectively. The win, paired with a loss by UPenn the same day, allowed Harvard to clinch the final spot in the Ivy League playoff tournament.
“We knew we had to win [this] game,” said junior guard Maggie McCarthy. “We played with no pressure even though we knew there was pressure. We played like we deserved to win [this] game; we’ve worked all season to get to the Ivy Tournament.”
The contest started off slow until Sussman and Forbes drained back-to-back triples to tie the game at 8-8. Sussman then converted back-to-back layups for the final lead change of the game, as Harvard led 12-9. The Crimson nailed back-to-back triples again, this time courtesy of Mullaney and first-year guard Harmoni Turner, to extend its lead to 18-13. Sussman tallied her ninth point of the first quarter off of a nifty dish from junior guard Annie Stritzel. The teams continued to trade baskets as Harvard closed the quarter with a 24-17 lead.
Harvard made its push in the second quarter, embarking on an enormous 23-4 run in which Forbes drained three consecutive triples. The Crimson outscored Big Green 28-9 in the second quarter to widen its lead to an astounding 52-26 margin at halftime.
Harvard continued its offensive explosion in the third quarter as a barrage of threes ensued from Forbes, Sussman, McCarthy, and Mullaney. Sussman continued her career night, going on a personal 10-1 run to balloon the Crimson’s lead to 74-37. The third quarter concluded with a couple of baskets by each team, with Harvard leading 76-41.
The Crimson started the final stanza with five straight points to reach the apex of its lead, 81-41. The team proceeded to take its foot off the gas pedal in this period as Dartmouth outscored Harvard 11-9 in the period. All in all, the Crimson cruised to a comfortable 85-52 victory to earn a spot in Ivy Madness, which it will host the following week.
After senior day festivities for guard Tess Sussman and forward Maddie Stuhlreyer, Harvard and Princeton (22-4, 14-0) tipped off Saturday afternoon in Cambridge and traded a series of offensive spurts throughout the first quarter. After the Tigers ran out to a nine-to-two lead, the Crimson responded with a trio of layups to narrow the margin midway through the period, which concluded with a five-point Princeton lead, 20-15.
The Tigers, however, outscored Harvard 17-7 in the second quarter, primarily due to the Crimson’s struggles from the field (three for eighteen) and three-point line (one for nine). Junior guard Maggie McCarthy recorded the lone three-point make in the period, and her standout play on defense complemented her efficient 12-point offensive performance.
Despite the 37-22 halftime deficit, Harvard emerged from the locker room to cut the Princeton lead to single digits. First-year guard Harmoni Turner led the third quarter offensive surge, recording seven consecutive points on her way to a team-leading 15.
“We know Princeton's a good team,” McCarthy said. “They have a reputation of being a good team, but we know they're beatable, too, and that's what we took from this game. We lost on the scoreboard by 20, but we were in it the whole game. In the second quarter, I think we let up. [...] On the defensive end, rotating and being there for each other and then offensively, we did not shoot well, and that's not typical of us.”
Junior guard McKenzie Forbes’ three-point conversion cut the Tigers’ lead to 41-32, but the Ivy League regular season champions continued their hot shooting from the first half to extend the lead to 57-40 by the end of the third period. The Princeton lead expanded to 20 throughout the fourth quarter, finishing at 73-53 when the final buzzer of the regular season sounded.
“I'm not discouraged, I'm disappointed,” Coach Delaney-Smith said. “There were some mistakes — we allowed the middle drive, we allowed the baseline drive, and our rotation was off on too many possessions. [...] Those are correctable errors, those are things that are unacceptable and shouldn't have happened. But the bottom line was, we have got to hit shots.”
Correcting her team’s defensive errors will be the focus of Delaney-Smith’s practices this week ahead of Harvard’s rematch against Princeton in the Ivy League conference tournament. The Crimson and Tigers will return to Lavietes Pavilion on Friday, March 11 at 4:30 p.m. as both teams aim for an Ivy League tournament championship and a bid to the NCAA tournament.
“This whole year flew by for me,” McCarthy said. “Especially being a junior after three seasons, things start to go by faster. It's not believable for [Delaney-Smith], either. I'm gonna remind everyone early [this week in practice], this is potentially our last week, and I’ll remind everyone that we're playing for Kathy, [...] and bringing the emotion, bringing everything for her for her 40 years.”
—Staff writer A.J. Dilts can be reached at email@example.com
—Staff writer Oscar Mercado can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org