After a dominant 73-58 win over Cornell (9-11, 2-6 Ivy) Friday night, Harvard (14-7, 5-3) struggled to keep its momentum going into Saturday, ending the long road trip with an 89-64 loss to Columbia (13-8, 4-4).
HARVARD 73, CORNELL 58
Sophomore guard Tess Sussman led Friday’s victory with a career-high 20-point performance. She was joined in double figures by Maggie McCarthy, Jeannie Boehm, and Lola Mullaney, with Rachel Levy’s nine-point, 10-rebound effort helping secure the win.
The Crimson jumped out to an early 22-15 first-quarter lead, as freshman standout Mullaney buried three early triples and senior forward Boehm punished the Big Red with three inside baskets. By halftime, a 38-19 Crimson lead signalled the women were playing with a level of energy and focus that Cornell simply could not match.
Boehm, a four-year starter, ended Friday’s contest with 14 points, but it was her two blocks, six rebounds, and effort on the defensive end that coach Kathy Delaney-Smith found praiseworthy.
“I think Jeannie’s probably one of the best defensive players in the league,” Delaney-Smith said. “I don’t think anyone really talks about that, we talk to her all the time about her value is almost more on the defensive end and as a rebounder than on the offensive end. I think she’s pretty lethal on both ends of the floor.”
Boehm has also displayed a vision and passing ability from the post, leading Harvard with six assists Friday.
“The fact that she’s had so many assists for us, just speaks volumes for how unselfish she is,” said Delaney-Smith.
And after struggling mightily to score early in the second half, it was Boehm who laid in the Crimson’s first second-half bucket at the 4:44 mark in the third quarter.
Despite Cornell managing to shrink the Harvard lead to 10 in the third quarter, the Crimson defense and grit Delaney-Smith has been preaching did much to prevent the Big Red from cutting the lead to single digits. A shooting barrage from Sussman, who made three three-point shots and scored 11 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter, extended the Harvard lead out of reach and helped her team notch its fifth win in the last six games.
HARVARD 64, COLUMBIA 89
Harvard continued its long road trip in New York City Saturday, where a hungry and deep Columbia squad capitalized on its chance to climb up the Ivy League Standings, ensuring that the Crimson dominance on Friday would not continue on the second night of the back-to-back.
The Lions did a good job containing Harvard’s leading scorer. Mullaney has been a consistent scoring presence for the Crimson this season, and her 15.3 points per game rank amongst the top in the Ivy League. Against Columbia, though, Mullaney struggled early to create offense. She remained scoreless until 1:19 remained in the first half, showing signs of possible fatigue and trouble adjusting to the back-to-back nature of Ivy League play.
“[Mullaney] thinks she can play 40 minutes a night, I think learning how to do that is part of being a Division One athlete in the Ivy League. It’s a hard, hard road trip with all of the bus time, so she did not have her legs,” said Coach Delaney-Smith following the loss.
Although initially trading baskets with the Lions, Harvard’s inability to get a shot off as the first quarter buzzer sounded indicated this was not the focused, engaged Crimson team that had rolled the previous night. Columbia sprinted out to a 20-4 run to end the first half, and continued cruising through the second half.
The loss did afford some players with an opportunity to gain valuable experience on the court. Freshman guard Annie Strizel took full advantage of her time, finishing with a career-high eight points on three-of-five shooting from the field. Junior forward Maddie Stuhlreyer chipped in with a career-best nine points and a team-high six rebounds as well.
“Annie [Strizel] played really hard off the bench, she played hard,” said Delaney-Smith. “She has great court IQ. I thought she did a pretty solid job coming off the bench. I have Sara Park, she’s a tremendous shooter. Gabby Donaldson, a tremendous athlete. [The freshmen] all have potential. [...] They have enormous potential.”
Mullaney, Boehm, and Levy all finished in double figures with 12, 11, and 10 points, respectively. As Harvard marches on through Ivy League play, the Crimson will need its young, less experienced players to take their games to another level and provide much needed bench depth.
As for Lola Mullaney, Coach Delaney-Smith has little worry her young star will bounce back from Saturday’s struggles.
“The transition to college basketball is massive, and for her to be as solid and consistent as she is for us is tremendous. She just gets better every time she steps on the floor.”
With the Crimson facing another tough road trip at league-leading Princeton (19-1, 7-7 Ivy) on Friday and second-place Penn (15-5, 5-2) Saturday, Harvard will need to rebound quickly if it hopes to solidify its spot in the Ivy League Tournament.