The Crimson came into the game with a 3-3-0 record, having won their first two games at home to start of the season, including a thrilling upset against Boston College in the opener, before dropping two road games to even out their record. Harvard then took part in the Omni Hotels Classic in Colorado, winning its first game against New Orleans before dropping the final to Colorado in a nail-biter.
As for last night's game, the Crimson continued their strong play at home, winning 74-57 in a game that was as schizophrenic as the rest of their season has been thus far. Harvard began the game in dominating fashion, scoring the first 19 points of the game in the first 6 minutes, opening up a lead that Holy Cross was never quite able to climb out of. The Crusaders picked up their play after that, playing the Crimson fairly evenly for the rest of the first half, but the Crimson still held a 16 point lead going into the break.
The second half saw a slight reversal in fortune for the two clubs, as Holy Cross cut the lead to 3 with a 14-1 run, aided by some turnovers and uncharacteristic fouls from the Harvard players. Harvard answered, though, with a 20-7 run of their own, and the Crimson never led by less than 13 from that point on. Here were some keys to the Crimson victory:
1) In a night that saw huge point swings in favor of both teams, the one constant for Harvard was the strong play by forward Emma Markley. Markley dominated the inside on both sides of the ball, leading all scorers with 18 points, and pulling down 15 boards, including 7 on the offensive end. The 15 rebounds was a season high for the Crimson, and she also patrolled the paint on the defensive side of the ball, swatting two shots and altering countless others. She was a huge reason for Harvard's huge advantage inside, as they outscored Holy Cross in the paint, 38-14.
2) Serving as the counterpoint to Markley's dominance in the post, point guard Brogan Berry was the star of the backcourt last night, scoring 16 points and dishing out 7 assists. Once the Crusaders cut the lead to 3, Berry took over, penetrating deep into the Holy Cross defense, and consistently scoring on lay-ups or floaters, or getting to the line. She took advantage of her chances for easy points, going a perfect 6 for 6 from the line, and was the main reason that the Crimson were able to build their lead back up to double digits.
3) Although both teams had some issues controlling the ball, as each side had at least 20 turnovers, Harvard was able to make the most of their opportunities when Holy Cross coughed it up. The Crimson scored 28 points off of Holy Cross miscues, while the Crusaders were only able to manage 13 points, and this proved to be the difference in the game.
Although no one can say that the game was closer than the score indicated, there were some flaws exposed in the Crimson's attack that have hurt them before this season. Harvard continues to be susceptible to big runs by the opposition, something that was the main reason for defeat against Sacred Heart against New Hampshire. When the shots aren't falling, which was the case early on in the second half, the women tend to compound the issue with unnecessary fouls and poor ball control, attempting to stop the bleeding. There is also not a great deal of depth behind Brogan Berry in terms of offensive facilitators who can control the ball, cut into the defense, and find open teammates. This could hurt the Crimson in the long run if Berry is forced to play huge minutes every game, or if she goes down for any significant period of time with an injury.
Even with the negatives, the women showed that they can be pretty dominant at points, with a balanced offensive attack and strong, aggressive defense. While the Crimson have been outstanding from long range this season, they only shot 30% for the game, forcing them to get to the basket and feed the ball inside for points. This proved that they are not one-dimensional on offense, and can score from anywhere on the floor. Also, the women continued their trend of getting contributions from multiple sources, with four players in double figures for the night, including freshman Victoria Lippert, who scored 13 points in only 17 minutes. Finally, Harvard showed that they can match their offensive fire power with a suffocating defense, jumping the passing lanes and going through stretches where they made it difficult, if not impossible, for the Crusaders to get an open look from anywhere on the floor. Getting overaggressive hurt them early in the second half, but if the Crimson can play intensely without getting into foul trouble, they can put together a dominating performance on both ends of the floor.
Look for more coverage of women's basketball throughout the season from WHRB Sports. Until then, thanks for reading.