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Strong Offense Carries Women's Basketball in New York Slate

Senior Kirby Porter looks to drive by her Brown defender in a match earlier this season.

In its final weekend of the regular season, Harvard women’s basketball completed the season sweep on the New York Ivies in its trip to the Empire State, topping Cornell and Columbia on the road.

The Crimson (18-9, 10-4 Ivy) cruised to victory on Saturday and Sunday following weather delays delaying the Friday game. Harvard spread the ball around, with nine double-digit performances recorded on the weekend.

“This is always a hard weekend because the travel involved is brutal,” coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “And throw in a storm and all the question marks and delays, it makes it more of a challenge. We weren’t allowed to practice Friday.”

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With victories over the Big Red (7-20, 3-11) and the Lions (8-21, 2-12), the Crimson heads into the Ivy League Tournament as the number three seed, set to take on two-seeded Penn in the first round.

“There were obstacles, but we still had to come out and prove we deserve to play next week in the tournament and into March Madness,” sophomore guard Katie Benzan said.

HARVARD 78, COLUMBIA 59

Harvard was able to take control of the game following a run in the first quarter. After Columbia jumped out to a quick 8-4 lead, the Crimson jumped into the driver’s seat. Harvard finished the quarter on a 15-3 run. Following the run, the Crimson refused to look back.

Harvard was led by freshman forward Jadyn Bush, who netted a career-high 21 points against the Lions. The rookie also shot 80 percent from the field and snagged six rebounds. Bush’s partner down low, sophomore forward Jeannie Boehm, also helped control the paint, scoring eight points and grabbing nine rebounds, while also recording a team-high five assists and four shots blocked shots.

The Crimson owned the inside throughout the weekend, out-rebounding Columbia 49-31. Boehm and Bush were not the only players contributing to Harvard’s dominance in the paint; sophomore guard Sydney Skinner had eight rebounds and junior co-captain Madeline Raster recorded seven rebounds to go along with her 16 points. Raster led the Crimson in scoring over the course of the entire weekend, netting 30 points against both the Lions and the Big Red.

“Rebounding was really important to us, and it wasn’t really one person,” Delaney-Smith said. “We had everybody in the rebounding column.”

In addition, Benzan scored 11 points and senior guard Taylor Rooks scored 10, adding to the list of double-digit performances. Benzan, Rooks, and Raster each scored in the double-digits in both games this weekend.

“We just have so many scorers and so many ways to score,” Delaney-Smith said.

For the second straight weekend, Harvard’s defense shined as well. Columbia shot only 35.4 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from behind the arc. This marks the fourth straight game in which the Crimson has allowed less than 70 points.

“We need to sustain the defensive effort and take care of the ball,” Delaney-Smith said. “That’s the combination where this team turned the corner.”

HARVARD 91, CORNELL 57

Harvard once again took advantage of an early run to top Cornell. Its 12-0 run in the second quarter sparked an explosive period in which the Crimson outscored Big Red 30-13, going into the half up 49-31 and in complete control.

Harvard’s offense was firing on all cylinders in its trip to Ithaca, topping 90 points for the second time this season. Five different Crimson scored in the double digits, led by Benzan, who showcased her versatility against the Big Red. To go along with her team-high 18 points, Benzan grabbed seven rebounds, recorded seven assists, and and swiped three steals. Benzan went four-for-six from behind the arc, and even grabbed her own rebound on a miss and scored after being fouled.

Benzan was not the only offensive force for Harvard. Boehm owned the paint, recording her fourth double-double of the year on 15 points and 10 rebounds. This marks the second-straight year in the sophomore’s career with at least four double-doubles.

Redford was able to net a career-high 12 points as one of seven Crimson that shot at least 50 percent from the field. This includes Rooks, who also had 12 points, and Raster, who was six-for-seven from the field and two-for-three from behind the arc for 14 points.

Harvard’s accuracy was the reason for its offense’s explosiveness, as the Crimson shot a whopping 62.1 percent from the field, including 55 percent from three-point range. Harvard was also perfect from the line, going eight-for-eight on free throws. This was an important facet for the Crimson, who suffered woes from the free-throw line at the beginning of the year.

Harvard’s defense proved a handful as well, holding Cornell to shoot just 32.8 percent from the field and 17.6 percent from beyond the arc. The Crimson also controlled the inside, outscoring the Big Red 48-28 in the point and recording seven blocks.

Harvard will ride its four-game winning streak into the Ivy League Tournament in Philadelphia, heading into enemy territory to take on Penn in the Palestra.

“Whatever team we see in the tournament, they’re all good teams to prepare for,” Delaney-Smith said. “We’ve lost to all of them and beaten all of them, so they’re all good teams.”

Last season, the Crimson was the number three seed. Harvard would see an early exit, losing its opening game to Princeton, 68-47.

“We’re all thinking that we have unfinished business in Philly and we need to prove what we can do,” Benzan said. “It’s going to be tough, but we’re all positive for the weekend.”

—Staff writer Joseph W. Minatel can be reached at joseph.minatel@thecrimson.com.

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