Women’s Basketball Edged in Hard-Fought Battle Against Princeton, 69-64

Photo courtesy of Gil Talbot
Photo courtesy of Gil Talbot
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – A gritty effort by Harvard women's basketball fell short against Princeton, 69-64, Saturday evening at Lavietes Pavilion despite 23 points and nine rebounds by senior captain Christine Clark.  

The Crimson (17-7, 7-3) also got 10 points apiece from senior wing Melissa Mullins and junior forward Temi Fagbenle. Mullins grabbed eight boards to near a double-double.

Princeton was led by Kristen Helmstetter with 18 points and six rebounds, as Taylor Williams chipped in 11 points and five boards. The Tigers (17-6, 8-1) stay atop the Ivy League standings with Penn.  

The Crimson shot 35.8 percent from the floor, but hit just 7-of-27 three pointers. The difference in the game was made at the charity stripe, where the Tigers hit 20-of-24 freebies, while Harvard made 9-of-12.  

In a half full of runs, Harvard started off the scoring with seven of the first nine points to take an early 7-2 lead over the first two-plus minutes. After a three by Helmstetter knotted the score at 7-7, the Crimson continued their assault with an 8-0 run to take a 15-7 advantage at the 14:34 mark.

Princeton went back on the offensive with a 10-0 run of its own, taking its first lead of the game, 17-15, with 8:50 remaining in the half. Jasmine Evans quieted the barrage with five-straight points of her own to start an 11-0 Crimson outburst. A lay-in by Clark on the break gave Harvard a 26-17 advantage with 5:28 to play before halftime. The Tigers closed the gap to three points before the break, as the Crimson maintained a 31-28 lead after 20 minutes of action.

A back-and-forth battle, neither team gained more than a six-point advantage over the final 20 minutes. Harvard edged out to a five-point advantage twice during the early minutes of the second half, but Princeton fought back to take its first lead of the second half, 43-42, with 11:22 left to play. Two free throws from Mullins – the first two tries for the Crimson from the charity stripe – knotted the game at 46-46 with just under 10 minutes to play.

The Tigers responded with five-straight points to gain a 51-46 advantage. The Crimson continued to fight; pulling within one, 56-55, with 5:58 to play after Mullins turned an offensive board into two points for Harvard. Five unanswered points from the Tigers gave the squad its largest advantage of the game, 61-55, but Clark pushed the Crimson to six-straight points and a knotted ball game with 3:05 to play. The guard from Tucson, Ariz., ended the spurt with a coast-to-coast lay-up.

Six unanswered points, including four from Michelle Miller, would prove to be the difference as Princeton gained a 67-61 footing. Clark continued to battle, knocking down a straight-away three with just nine seconds to play, but the Tigers hit their free throws down the stretch to account for the final score.

Harvard will hit the road for the last time this regular season, heading to Cornell and Columbia next weekend.

Game Notes: With 23 points, Christine Clark passed Tammy Butler '95 for fourth all-time at Harvard with 1,623 points. Clark scored in double-figures for the 92nd time in her career and 18th time this season. Melissa Mullins posted her second-straight double-figure output (10 points) and third of the season. Temi Fagbenle reached her 17th double-figure game of the season and 37th of her career. Harvard moves to 15-6 with the starting lineup of Curtis, Clark, Mullins, Fagbenle and McDonnell. It marked the first time since 1993-94 that Harvard has dropped both games at home in an Ivy weekend. This marked the third loss (15-3) when leading at the half this season.