The hot-shooting Harvard women took an astounding lead into halftime against an ice-cold Penn team, and a Quaker revival in the second half wasn’t nearly enough Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion, as the Crimson won, 58-51.
How good was that 32-13 first half for Harvard? This is a team that relies on three-point scoring, and the Crimson (11-5, 2-1 Ivy) hit seven of 14 from outside, for two thirds of their points. Harvard had the edge in rebounding at halftime.
And how bad was that half for Penn? It had a 7-3 lead and then couldn’t do anything right. The Quakers shot a sorry 5-for-17 in the first quarter and then went into another dimension with 1-for-18 in the second quarter. That’s two points in the quarter for Penn (10-5, 0-2). In the first 20 minutes, the Red & Blue missed from outside the arc: 1-for-12. They missed from inside: 5-for-24. They missed at the foul line: zilch-for-4.
Penn is a good team, and no good team is going to stay that cold; for that matter, Harvard is a good team, but Harvard wasn’t going to stay that hot. (Harvard might go the rest of the season without sustaining 50% from three over 20 minutes.) So some things were bound to change after the half. But Penn still sputtered enough, and Harvard still connected enough, that Penn never got within a basket.
It was a weird game in many ways:
Harvard’s starting five scored all of its baskets, but two players off the bench contributed seven crucial points from the foul line, six of them — on six attempts — from Rachel Levy. For that matter, foul shots were decisive: Harvard sank 12 of 14, and Penn hit eight of 21. Folks, 12 for 14 is 86%; 8-for-21 is middle school.
Like Harvard, Penn got all of its baskets from five players. In fact, it got all of its points from those five players. But they weren’t all starters: Michae Jones contributed five points off the bench. Starting point guard Kendall Grasela, who usually has more assists than points, came off her career high of 15 points (and seven assists) in a full 40 minutes on the court against Temple to record no points (one assist) in just 21 minutes at Harvard.
Speaking of assists, Harvard was connecting: On its 18 baskets, it recorded 14 assists.
Both teams shot better from outside the arc than inside. First-year guard Lola Mullaney, whose 20 points led the way for Harvard, shot 5-for-8 from outside and 2-for-13 from inside.
Jeannie Boehm, a 6-foot-3 senior forward on a young Harvard team, had a great game in the middle, with 10 points, 16 rebounds and five assists. The player Penn needed to match up against her, 6-foot-4 junior center Eleah Parker, has been coming back slowly from injury; she had her best game of the season against Temple but struggled in Cambridge, playing just 18 minutes and shooting 4-for-13 for eight points and six rebounds. Instead, Penn mostly relied inside on junior forward Tori Crawford, who got her first start of the season and 14 rebounds and 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting. Guard Phoebe Sterba also moved inside to pick up nine rebounds along with seven points. It helped, but it wasn’t enough.
With Parker out for most of the game and Harvard shooting well, Penn needed a hot hand for first-year shooting star Kayla Padilla, the Ivies’ leading scorer. And KP had half a hot game, enough for 21 points, almost all in the second half. Like Mullaney, her main competitor for Ivy Rookie of the Year, Padilla couldn’t buy a bucket inside the arc: She was 5-for-12 from three, and 1-for-13 from two.
Harvard tests its shooting hand Saturday night against Princeton. Penn, which now has lost four games in a row for the first time since 2012, goes to Dartmouth.