Mullins registered a career-high seven steals as the Crimson forced 20 Providence turnovers (Gil Talbot).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Facing a 50-49 deficit with 7:34 to play, the Harvard women's basketball team closed the game out on a 24-9 run to earn a 73-59 win over Providence Tuesday night at Lavietes Pavilion. The win was the team's fourth in a row to improve to 7-2 on the year, marking just the fourth time in program history that Harvard has started 7-2 or better.
Christine Clark scored a team-high 17 points and dished out four assists while Victoria Lippert notched 15 points to go with a game-high seven rebounds, four dimes and three steals. Temi Fagbenle added 15 points including 13 in the second half.
Harvard's victory was keyed by stellar play at the defensive end as the Crimson forced 20 Providence (2-6) turnovers and blocked five shots. Melissa Mullins led the charge with a career-high seven steals, tied for seventh-most in program history, as Miriam Rutzen registered three blocks.
The Crimson shot 50.9 percent for the game, including a 16-of-28 (57.1%) performance after the break, and was 7-of-12 from beyond the arc. This marks Harvard's first win over Providence since 2003 and is the team's second win in as many years over a BIG EAST opponent on its home floor following last season's 63-56 victory over St. John's.
The Friars connected at a 48.2 percent clip and were led by Brianna Edwards' 21-point effort. The Crimson held a 35-28 advantage on the glass and scored 11 points off 12 offensive rebounds.
Harvard struggled with Providence's pressure defense early and turned the ball over seven times in the first five-plus minutes to allow the Friars to take a 10-4 lead. Providence extended the margin with layups by Symone Roberts and Edwards before a long jumper from Lippert ended the 10-0 run.
Trailing 18-8, the Crimson turned up its own defensive pressure and used a 14-0 run to take its first lead of the night, 22-18. An Elle Hagedorn block led to a Lippert three-pointer to cut Harvard's deficit to 18-13, and following an Ali Curtis three the Crimson trailed by just one, 18-17. Harvard went on top 20-18 after Hagedorn followed a Melissa Mullins block with a triple from the left corner and Hargedorn's jumper off a Roberts' turnover gave the Crimson its four-point edge.
Providence scored four quick points to tie things up at 22 and the Friars regained the lead with layups by Edwards and Roberts, 26-25. The team's traded the lead twice more in the waning moments of the half with Providence heading into the locker room with a 28-27 edge.
Lippert led the Crimson with 11 first-half points on 5-of-7 shooting as the team combined to go 11-of-25 (44.0%) from the floor. Providence, meanwhile, shot 45.2 percent led by Edwards' 12 points and scored 16 points off 15 Harvard turnovers.
It was a track meet to start the second half with Harvard gaining a 33-32 lead on a Lippert layup after the senior corralled her own miss. Providence came right back and gained a 36-33 lead before a Mullins steal led to two Clark free throws to knot the game back up at 37. Temi Fagbenle pushed the Crimson out in front with an easy lay-in off a Hagedorn feed, 39-37, and made it a 41-39 game with a drive on the team's next possession.
Mullins' sixth steal of the night resulted in a three-pointer for the junior at the other end and a 44-41 Crimson advantage, but Providence continued to hang tough and went back on top off a Tori Rule layup, 49-50. Harvard eventually began to pull away, however, as a Mullins putback trigged a 9-0 run to put the Crimson in front by eight, 58-50. Fagbenle scored five points during the stretch including a fastbreak layup to cap it off.
Harvard's lead reached double-digits with a Mullins layup, 63-52, and swelled to 16 points on a Clark three, 73-57, before the final horn sounded the Crimson victory.
Harvard returns to action Monday, Dec. 10 as it travels to face cross-town rival Boston University at 7 p.m.
Game Notes: Harvard improved to 7-2 with its fourth straight victory, marking just the fourth time in program history that the Crimson has gone 7-2 or better to begin the year … Melissa Mullins recorded a career-high seven steals which ranks as the seventh-best single-game performance in program history … Miriam Rutzen moved into fifth place in program history with 79 career blocks … Harvard has defeated a team from the BIG EAST on its home floor in back-to-back seasons after last year's 63-56 win over St. John's.