Late run propels Harvard women over St. Joseph’s

Down four with 2:40 to go in regulation, McKenzie Forbes and Lola Mullaney led the Crimson on a 7-2 run to pull out a 73-70 win over St. Joseph’s at Hagan Arena on Tuesday afternoon.

Harvard (6-6) was originally scheduled to take on Norfolk State in the opening round of the Hawk Classic, but COVID-19 issues within the Spartans’ program forced the cancellation of the four-team tournament.  Despite the absence of Norfolk State and North Alabama, the Hawks (4-8) and Crimson decided to meet in the final nonconference game for both programs.

St. Joseph’s came out hot, hitting seven of its first 10 shots to open up a 18-5 lead in the first six minutes. Harvard first-year guard Harmoni Turner closed out the opening quarter with nine points, with two traditional and one old-fashioned three-pointers, to make it a 25-19 game.

After a Kaliah Henderson jumper stretched the Hawks’ advantage to 10 with just over five minutes left in the half, Mullaney and Tess Sussman scored 11 points as the Crimson finished the second frame on a 13-3 run to tie the game at 38.

Using a five-guard starting lineup, Harvard struggled from inside the arc but managed to find success from the outside.  After the first twenty minutes of action, the Crimson made nine of 14 three pointers (64%) while only hitting five of 17 attempts from two (29%).  The Hawks, meanwhile, hit 10 of 19 from the inside (53%) and were successful on four of 10 attempts from downtown (40%).

Kathy Delaney-Smith changed tactics in the second half, getting her team to attack the Hawks and control the paint.  St. Joe’s managed to pull away from a 48-all game over the last three minutes of the third quarter to take a 55-50 lead, but the Hawks were beginning to wear down from the pressure.

The Crimson opened the fourth quarter on an 8-1 run, punctuated by a Mullaney defensive rebound and fastbreak pass to a streaking Forbes, to give Harvard its first lead of the day at 58-56.

After the game was tied at 62 midway through the final frame, Julia Nyström hit two triples to lead the Hawks to a 68-64 advantage.  Following a short jumper from the right side by Forbes, Henderson hit a backdoor cut layup to keep it the lead at four with just 90 seconds remaining.

On the next possession, Forbes responded with a three from the left elbow to make it 70-69.

The Hawks worked the shot clock to 10 before Turner committed her second personal foul and the team’s third of the quarter.  With the shot clock put back to 20, St. Joseph’s had a hard time getting an open look.  With four seconds to shoot, Henderson finally broke free from Sussman and drove the lane only to have her mid-range jumper stolen by Forbes.

Forbes missed the coast-to-coast layup, but Mullaney was there to hit the putback and give Harvard the 71-70 lead with 23 seconds remaining.

The Hawks again struggled with Harvard’s defensive pressure, forcing Henderson to put up a jumper over Maggie McCarthy from the right side of the free throw lane that hit the front of the rim.  With Sussman grabbing the rebound with five seconds left, the Hawks had no choice but to commit fouls and send the Crimson to the free throw line.  Mullaney would end up hitting both shots from the charity stripe with just under a second left to give Harvard the 73-70 victory.

In the decisive second half, the Crimson only hit two of eight from three (25%) but were 12-for-23 (52%) from two.  The Hawks, who were forced to shift to the outside, made six of 12 from long range (50%) but only made five of 17 from inside the arc (29%). Harvard also won the battle of the boards over the final 20 minutes with a +6 and +15% advantage.

Forbes ended the game with seven points and a game-high eight rebounds, while Mullaney added 16 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks.  While those two were the late-game stars, the Crimson wouldn’t have been in position without Turner. The five-star, first-year point guard led the way on both sides of the ball, finishing the day with career highs in points (25), shooting percentage (63%) and three-point shooting percentage (4-for-6 for 67%).  She also added six rebounds and four assists in the winning effort.

For the Hawks, Nyström finished with 18 points on 55% shooting, while Henderson had 11 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Harvard, winners of three straight, will have a few days off before beginning league play with a visit to conference favorite Princeton on Sunday. The contest, which begins at 2 p.m., can be viewed on ESPN+.

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