Moments after guiding the Harvard women’s basketball team to a March 2 victory over visiting Cornell to snatch up the 2007 Ivy League championship — the program’s 10th — coach Kathy Delaney-Smith was already looking ahead to the Crimson’s two remaining games of the season. The Crimson mentor may have been pleased with Harvard’s 64-48 win that locked up the Ivy crown and subsequent NCAA tournament berth, but with Columbia and a solid Dartmouth squad still in the queue, she wasn’t yet completely satisfied.
“It’ll be interesting to see if we —now that we’ve won the title — sustain the intensity,” the coach said after the win against the Big Red, adding, “That’ll be the mark of a true championship team in my opinion.”
After the women’s sweep of visiting Columbia, 72-65, and Dartmouth, 72-54, on March 3 and 6, respectively, one suspects Delaney-Smith will now be able to fully enjoy the team’s remarkable 2006-07 run, marked so colorfully by a 2-12 start, a dozen straight wins, and, of course, that golden NCAA ticket. Though with Harvard’s NCAA appearance on the horizon (the first round kicks off March 17 with an opponent to be announced), it’s likely the Crimson coach won’t be relaxing anytime soon. And maybe that’s a good thing.
In Harvard’s final three games of the season, coach Delaney-Smith and company have dominated the competition by an average margin of victory of 14 points, further solidifying the team’s distinction as the league’s scoring margin leader. Prior to the Crimson’s showdown with Dartmouth, the team was also first in points per game (67.7), rebounds (offensive and defensive), field goal percentage (45.5), free throw percentage (73.4), 3-point field goal percentage (33.6), assists per game (14.8), and steals (8.9). Not bad for a team that dropped its first six games of the season.
In the Crimson’s final two contests, meanwhile, Harvard trailed by no more than three points. Opposite Columbia (March 3), Harvard overtook the Lions for good at the 13:54 mark by jumping out to a 12-7 lead behind an 8-0 run. And though Columbia managed to keep things close throughout the first half, Harvard’s deep bench generated 19 second-half points (to the Lion’s three) to help the hosts pull away.
Most recently, Harvard overcame a horrendous 3-point shooting night (2-for-11) to down Dartmouth with another balanced effort from the field. All told, four players in white scored in double figures. Leading the attack (and in just 20 minutes of action) was sophomore Katie Rollins, who tallied a game high 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting and a pair of free throws. Classmate Niki Finelli, meanwhile, contributed 14 points and six first-half steals. Rounding it out, junior Lindsay Hallion chipped in 11 points and four assists, while sophomore Liz Tindal dropped in 10.
With the wins, Harvard closes out this year’s campaign with a 15-12 record (13-1 Ivy). The team’s unbeaten Ivy streak of 12 games betters Harvard’s previous record of eight straight, dating back to the 2004-05 season.