The Harvard women’s team (7-6) defeated the No. 14 California Golden Bears at Haas Pavilion on Sunday afternoon, 85-79, for its first victory over a ranked opponent since coach Kathy Delaney-Smith’s No. 16 Crimson defeated No. 1 Stanford, 71-67, in the opening round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament. The last time an Ancient Eight team bested a ranked opponent before Sunday was a 91-85 Yale win over No. 15 Florida State in Dec. 2015.
The Crimson started out the weekend with a dominant 33-point victory at 5-7 Rhode Island on Friday afternoon. Harvard’s defense was in control, holding the Rams to 24 percent shooting from three, 31 percent shooting from two, and nine first half total points. The Crimson, which were led by Jeannie Boehm, who notched her first double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Harvard then flew across country to face a 9-1 Golden Bears team, whose only loss was a 76-66 defeat to No. 1 UConn on December 22nd. The Crimson finished the first quarter up 30-22 on the strength of six three pointers. After extending the lead to 15 at the 6:20 mark of the second stanza, Cal closed the half on a 16-4 run to go into the locker room down 43-40. By the end of the third, Harvard was still clinging to a 60-58 lead.
Cal went up by five with 7:30 left in regulation, and looked ready to pull away. The Crimson battled back and a long three from Madeline Raster at the left key tied the game at 73 with 3:11 remaining in the fourth quarter. The game then went back and forth over the next two minutes, until Boehm hit a jumped to put Harvard up 79-78 with 44 seconds on the clock. Cal’s Asha Thomas missed a three coming out of the timeout, and Boehm had a huge block on Kristine Anigwe, who had just come down with the offensive rebound. Katie Benzan and Sydney Skinner went 6 for 6 from the free throw line to close out the upset.
Harvard shot 53 percent from the field, including 13 three pointers at a 54 percent rate. They also added 10 of 12 shots from the charity stripe. For the second straight game, the Crimson had five players scoring in double digits (Benzan, Boehm, Skinner and Madeline Raster from the starting lineup, as well as reserve forward Rachel Levy), being led by Benzan, who had 5 threes, 19 points and 10 assists. Cal, meanwhile, hit 11 three-pointers at a 41 percent rate and held a huge advantage on the glass, 46-25, with an astonishing 23 offensive boards. Unfortunately, coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s (Brown ‘ 99) Golden Bears went 18-41 (41 percent) from two and 10-22 (46 percent) from the free throw line.
Sunday’s win provided a weekend sweep for the Ivies in their matchups with the Pac-12, following the Princeton men’s 67-66 win over No. 17 Arizona State. The Crimson, which has now won three in a row, will be off until Jan. 19, when they host the Dartmouth Big Green for the first of two back-to-back contests to start their Ivy League schedule.