Senior forward Destiny Nunley scored all 12 of her points in the second half to lift Harvard past Siena. (Courtesy of Siena Athletics)
LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. – Freshman guard Katie Benzan (13 points, seven rebounds, four assists) and sophomore guard Madeline Raster (13 points) led the Harvard women's basketball team (9-1) to a 65-58 win over Siena (2-8). Crimson held off the Saints in the final minutes for a ninth straight victory, the longest winning streak for Harvard since 2006-07.
Harvard outrebounded Siena 46-28 for the game, with freshman forward Jeannie Boehm (nine rebounds) leading the way. Sophomore guard Nani Redford added a career high 11 points, and senior forward Destiny Nunley scored all 12 of her points in the second half for Harvard.
With a 53-48 lead midway through the fourth quarter, Harvard used a short 5-0 spurt keyed by Nunley's fast break layup followed by Redford's corner three with 4:41 to play to take a 58-48 lead. Siena once again cut the lead to five points after a three-point play to make it 58-53 with 3:09 to go.
Siena cut to within four points at 60-56 with 1:08 to play, hitting free throws on consecutive possessions.
But then the Crimson locked down on defense, as Boehm altered a drive by Siena's Deja Rawls, grabbed a defensive rebound and was fouled with 26.9 to play, hitting a free throw to put Harvard up 61-56. Siena answered with a quick layup to make it a one possession game, but Benzan hit two free throws, then forced a tie-up on Siena's ensuing possession to give Harvard the ball back with under 10 seconds to play.
Skinner then hit two free throws to ice the game, helping the Crimson continue its impressive streak.
Harvard started the game hot from long distance, hitting three from beyond the arc in the opening 10 minutes of play. The Crimson finished the game 8-of-19 (42.1%) from three-point range; The solid three-point shooting helped the Crimson overcome a slow start.
Trailing 6-5, Skinner and Raster hit three-pointers to put Harvard ahead 11-6 midway through the opening quarter. Siena cut the lead to 11-10, but in the closing seconds of the quarter, junior Kirby Porter grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a put back shot to give Harvard a three-point lead at the end of the opening quarter.
Benzan helped Harvard build a modest lead in the second quarter, scoring eight of her 11 first half points in the frame. Harvard used a 12-4 run to take a 31-22 lead midway through the quarter. Benzan hit a long two-pointer, followed by a corner three to key the run.
After Siena cut the lead to 31-26, Redford went coast-to-coast for a pull-up jumper at the free-throw line with 1:47 to play, giving Harvard a seven-point lead at halftime. The Crimson held a 25-13 rebounding edge at the break, including seven offensive rebounds that led to 13 second chance points.
Nunley had 10 quick points to start the third quarter, including a short jumper from six feet off a well-designed inbounds play to give Harvard a 44-33 lead with 4:44 to play.
Harvard pushed the lead to 48-35 on Nunley's offensive rebound and put back before a 7-0 Siena run late in the quarter made it a six point game heading into the final 10 minutes.
Harvard returns to action at the Fordham Holiday Classic, opening the tournament on Dec. 29 with a 2:30 p.m. contest against UNC Asheville
Game Notes: Harvard made its first ever trip to Alumni Recreation Center, and is 3-2 in the all-time series against Siena…Harvard has won nine games in a row, all in non-league play, and is off to its best 10-game start in school history, and its longest winning streak since a 12-game run during the 2006-07 season.