PRINCETON, N.J. – The Harvard Crimson put an abrupt end to anticipation of a rubber match between regular-season co-champions Princeton and Columbia by defeating the latter in the second of two Ivy League Tournament semifinal games played at Jadwin Gym in an overtime thriller, 72-65.
The No. 3 Crimson advance to face No. 1 Princeton, which defeated Penn earlier Friday, 60-47. The tournament final will be played Saturday at 5 p.m. at Jadwin Gym.
Harvard was led by senior guard McKenzie Forbes, who scored a game-high 27 points, including nine of the Crimson’s 14 overtime points. Sophomore guard Harmoni Turner contributed 18 points to the Crimson’s cause along with 12 rebounds.
Columbia got a game effort from senior forward Kaitlyn Davis, who tallied a career-high 27 points in a losing cause. But the story of the game for Columbia was the shooting futility of All-Ivy first-team guard Abbey Hsu, who managed only four points on 2-for-14 shooting from the field.
Harvard coach Carrie Moore said her team worked on guarding Hsu this week, and it showed.
After the defeat, Columbia coach Megan Griffith, who earlier in the week earned Ivy Coach of the Year honors, credited Harvard with playing a great game. However, in MacArthuresque fashion, she vowed that Columbia will return to postseason play.
“We will be in the NCAA Tournament, so let’s go!” Griffith proclaimed as she exited the postgame press conference.
The game started on a positive note for No. 2 Columbia as the Lions jumped out to a 10-4 lead at the first media timeout. Harvard’s shooters struggled early to find their range, making only two of their first ten shots. However, the Crimson managed to keep the game close and trailed by only three at the end of the first quarter, 14-11.
The Crimson’s shooting woes continued early into the second period. But then, Jaida Patrick, a senior guard and Columbia’s third-leading scorer, picked up her second foul and had to sit for most of the rest of the first half. Her absence seemed to propel the Crimson. Saniyah Glenn-Bello, a 6-foot guard from Staten Island, N.Y., sparked the Harvard turnaround by hitting three of four shots. Then, with 4:45 to go in the first half, McKenzie Forbes hit a three pointer to put Harvard in front for the first time in the game, 22-20. The Crimson closed out the first half on a 24-11 run and led 28-23 at the end of the second quarter.
Harvard had wrestled control of the game away from Columbia in the second quarter through ferocious rebounding and by seemingly winning every 50-50 fight for loose balls. The Crimson out-rebounded Columbia by a hefty 25-15 margin in the first half, which included 9 offensive boards. Harvard cashed in those second chances for 14 points in the first half.
In the second half, Columbia came out determined to change the trajectory of the game. Jaida Patrick, who had sat on the bench due to foul trouble for much of the first half, sparked the Columbia comeback with 15 points, all in the second half. She twice tied the game, first with a nifty reverse layup late in the third quarter and then again with a three-point bomb to open the scoring in the fourth quarter.
But Harvard had an answer for every Columbia surge. A Forbes jumper gave Harvard a lead, 47-45 with 9:19 to go in regulation. A layup by Elena Rodriguez followed by a jumper from Harmoni Turner pushed the Harvard lead to six, 51-45, with 8:41 to play.
The Lions clawed their way back into the game by finally turning the tide on the boards. With 3:24 to go, a Jaida Patrick offensive rebound led to a three pointer by Kitty Henderson and suddenly it was a two-point game, 55-53. Moments later, a Kaitlyn Davis layup knotted the score at 55. With 1:43 left in the fourth quarter, Hannah Pratt, a senior forward, hit a three pointer to give Columbia its first lead since early in the second quarter, 58-57.
Both teams failed to score on successive possessions and when a foul by Abbey Hsu sent Elena Rodriguez to the free throw line, the 6-foot-2 sophomore could only make one of two from the charity stripe to tie the game at 58 with 49 seconds to go. An offensive foul on Kaitlyn Davis gave Harvard a chance to hold for a potential game-winning shot, but the Crimson fumbled the ball away in the dying seconds of regulation and the game went to extra time.
In overtime, neither team could muster a basket until Davis converted a layup to put Columbia back in front, 60-58, with 3:16 remaining. From there it was the McKenzie Forbes show as the Harvard senior made a layup, a three-pointer, and two free throws to put the game out of reach for the Crimson.
A steal and layup by Forbes in the final seconds put the icing on the cake as Harvard closed the curtain on Columbia’s storybook Ivy season. A jubilant Crimson squad along with fans and family members danced on the sidelines as throngs of dejected Columbia fans headed for the exits. Day one of Ivy Madness had come to end in dramatic fashion.
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“MacArthuresque” Wow, now that’s a Roundball Poet!