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Harvard’s Comeback Bid Falls Short as It Loses 63-61 to Columbia in Ivy League Semifinal

Junior guard Harmoni Turner led Harvard with 21 points during its Ivy League semifinal matchup against Columbia on Friday, but it was not enough for to overcome the Lions.
Junior guard Harmoni Turner led Harvard with 21 points during its Ivy League semifinal matchup against Columbia on Friday, but it was not enough for to overcome the Lions. By Owen A. Berger
By Miles J. Herszenhorn and Oscar E. Mercado, Crimson Staff Writers

NEW YORK — Harvard women’s basketball team (16-12, 9-5 Ivy) looked to upset Columbia (23-5, 13-1 Ivy) on home court and punch a ticket to the Ivy League championship game, but its fourth quarter comeback was too little, too late as the Crimson lost 63-61 to the Lions on Friday.

Harvard’s loss at Levien Gymnasium dashes the team’s hopes of clinching a spot in the NCAA basketball tournament and prolongs a 16-year drought since the team’s last March Madness appearance.

The Crimson got off to a quick start, etching a 9-4 lead over the Lions thanks to three straight jumpers from standout junior guard Harmoni Turner. Turner contributed to 11 of Harvard’s 16 points in the initial period. Despite Turner’s strong performance, Columbia displayed its championship grit, erasing the Crimson’s lead at 14-14. A last second jumper by freshman guard Karlee White, assisted by Turner, gave Harvard a two-point advantage to end the quarter.

Starting the second quarter, the Lions embarked on a 6-0 run, gaining its first lead of the game. Presented with its first instance of significant adversity, the Crimson rallied led by sophomore forward Katie Krupa’s eight points in the quarter. Still, Harvard found itself down 29-28 in the waning seconds of the period, but a monumental buzzer beater by sophomore guard Gabby Anderson put the Crimson on top heading into halftime, 30-29.

A jumper from Turner helped the Crimson start the second half the same way it started the first, but the similarities ended there. The Lions flipped the script at the start of the third quarter with a 8-0 run that brought the crowd to life and allowed Columbia to take control with a 37-32 advantage over Harvard.

Columbia’s senior guard Abbey Hsu, who was named the Ivy League Player of the Year, made two free throws with less than a minute left in the quarter to extend the Lions’ lead to 46-40. A turnover by Harvard gave Hsu a chance at a three pointer, but her shot missed its mark.

The Lions, however, did not give up as sophomore forward Susie Rafiu grabbed the offensive rebound and put it back up for a layup with just two seconds on the clock, allowing the hosts to take an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter.

The final 10 minutes of the semifinal matchup was a back-and-forth affair as the Lions maintained a six-point advantage over the Crimson until the last 90 seconds of the game. But Harvard’s grit showed in the waning minutes, as Turner and White forced turnovers in quick succession to make it a four-point game with just more than a minute left on the clock.

Columbia’s two-possession lead forced Harvard to foul and the Lions’ went 6-for-8 from the free throw line to seal their path to victory. While the Crimson never relented and two three-pointers assisted by Turner cut Columbia’s victory down to just two points, the clock was not on Harvard’s side.

The Crimson could only watch as the Lions let the final two seconds on the clock expire and celebrated in front of their home crowd. Columbia will battle Princeton Saturday evening for the Ivy League championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at Follow him on X @mherszenhorn or on Threads @mileshersz.

—Staff writer Oscar E. Mercado can be reached at

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