Coming off an eight-day layoff, Harvard women’s basketball ran out of gas in the fourth quarter against Bay State rival Massachusetts and suffered its first loss of the season, 77-67, at Lavietes Pavilion Friday night.
Harvard (2-1) was up six at the half and extended that to an eight-point lead, 50-42, with 2:14 left in the third quarter. After a Ber’nyah Mayo layup and an old-fashioned three-point play by Sydney Taylor made it a three-point game, Harvard’s Harmoni Turner inadvertently elbowed Destiney Philoxy and was called for an intentional offensive foul.
Taylor sank the two free throws and hit a layup on the ensuing possession to put UMass (3-1) up 51-50 heading into the final 10 minutes.
The two teams traded the lead four times before Mackenzie Forbes sank a three near the right baseline to put the Crimson up 67-66 with 3:06 left in regulation.
Philoxy fed Mackennah White for a give-and-go layup to put UMass back up by one at the 2:12 mark.
On the next possession, Turner turned the ball over to Philoxy near the right side of UMass’ three-point line. The second-team preseason All-Atlantic 10 defensive player raced down the court and found Mayo, who hit the layup and was fouled by Forbes for the 71-67 lead.
Philoxy and Mayo netted the final six points, while the Minutewomen held the Crimson scoreless the rest of the way.
Taylor finished with a team-high 23 points, and White came off the bench to add a career-high 18 points. Philoxy had a double double with 10 points, 11 boards and seven assists, while Mayo notched 14 points and nine rebounds.
As usual, Harvard’s offense was three-pointer-oriented. In their two victories over Rhode Island and Boston College, the Crimson shot 11-for-24 (46%) and 10-for-22 (46%), respectively. On Friday night, they made 11 triples, but they did it on 40 attempts (28%).
Defensively, the smaller Crimson had trouble on the inside. They were -7 and -9% on the boards, while allowing the Minutewomen 24 more points in the paint. They managed to hold UMass to only 41% from shots inside the arc, but their bigger opponents finished with 56 attempts from up close.
Harvard also committed 17 fouls, sending UMass to the line 16 times. Unfortunately for the Crimson, the Minutewomen didn’t miss from the charity stripe.
For Harvard, Forbes was the star of the night. Not only did the senior guard lead all scorers with 24 points, but she helped limit Sam Breen, the 2021-22 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year who arrived averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds, to only eight points and three rebounds.
Another bright spot for Crimson was the play of Saniyah Glenn-Bello. The first-year guard from Staten Island came off the bench to score seven points and five rebounds in 19 minutes.
Turner, unfortunately, had her most difficult game of the season.
The sophomore point guard and 2021-22 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, who entered the night as one of the nation’s top 10 scorers at 28 points per game on 59% shooting, finished with seven points on 33% shooting. She also only played 25 minutes, eight minutes less than her season average.
Most noticeable was the fact that the team’s biggest star was on the bench for the last two minutes of the game after being picked by Philoxy.
First-year coach Carrie Moore will look to get Turner and the team back on track with a visit to Merrimack on Monday (game available on NEC Front Row). Then, the Crimson head to Cancun for Thanksgiving to take on Purdue, Oklahoma State and Florida State (all games on FloHoops).