Women's Basketball Back From Break at Fordham Holiday Classic

Women's Basketball Back From Break at Fordham Holiday Classic

Game Info
Live Stats
Series Record
Last Meeting
Game Notes 

Harvard vs. UNC Asheville
Thursday, Dec. 29
2:30 p.m.
Rose Hill Gymnasium
Atlantic 10 Network
Live Stats
Harvard (9-1)
UNC Asheville (6-3)
First Meeting
Harvard vs. UNC Asheville (PDF)

Harvard brings a nine-game winning streak into the Fordham Holiday Classic and is off to its best start in program history at 9-1. (Courtesy of Siena Athletics) 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Harvard (9-1) returns from the holiday break at with the opening round of the Fordham Holiday Classic, as the Crimson will take on UNC Asheville (6-3) for the first time in program history.  Harvard has won nine games in a row, all in non-league play, and is off to its best 10-game start ever. Harvard is in the midst of its longest winning streak since a 12-game run during the 2006-07 season. The Crimson were ranked 9th in the latest ESPNW Mid-Major rankings.

Harvard returns to the Fordham Holiday Classic for the second time in program history after a runner-up showing in 2013 edition of the tournament. That year, Harvard beat Tulsa, 61-57, in the opening game on Dec. 29, 2013, before falling to host Fordham, 64-44, on the following day in the championship game.

On Dec. 21, freshman guard Katie Benzan (13 points, seven rebounds, four assists) and sophomore guard Madeline Raster (13 points) led Harvard to a 65-58 win over Siena. 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. 

• Fifth year head coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick and the UNC Asheville Bulldogs are off to a 6-3 start, fallling 81-51 at Appalachian State on Dec. 21 in its most recent outing. The 2015-16 Big South Champions returned 12 letterwinners from a season ago, including 2015-16 Big South Conference Player of the Year and 2016-17 Big South Preseason Player of the Year senior Chatori Major (10.7 ppg). Preseason first team all-conference selection senior Tianna Knuckles (12.6 ppg) leads the team in scoring, while senior center KJ Weaver (7.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.8 bpg) is a force inside.

• As a team, UNC Asheville takes care of the basketball. The Bulldogs are 5th in the nation with only 122 turnovers on the season (13.6 per game). The Bulldogs are also a top shooting team, averaging 44.1% from the field (55th, NCAA) and 70.8 ppg (88th, NCAA), both tops in the Big South.

• UNC Asheville is 5-0 in games in which it scores 70 points or more, and 1-3 in games  where it fails to reach the 70 point mark.

The Crimson own an nine-game non-conference winning streak, the longest in program history. At 9-1 with three non-conference games left on the schedule, Harvard has a chance to post its best out of conference showing in school history.

Harvard has held the rebounding edge in eight of its first 10 games, and has only been outrebounded once this season. Harvard ranks 19th in the nation with an average of 44.8 rebounds per game, and has an average rebounding margin of +10.4 (22nd, NCAA).

Harvard is one of the top shot-blocking teams in the nation, with 58 blocks (37th, NCAA) for an average of 5.8 blocks per game (22nd, NCAA). Freshman forward Jeannie Boehm (2.8 blocks per game, 13th NCAA) is the team's top shot-blocker.

Harvard head coach Kathleen Delaney-Smith recorded her 550th win against Fairfield on Nov. 26, becoming the 45th Division I women's head coach to reach that milestone. Delaney-Smith owns a 555-376 (.596) all-time record.

Through 10 games this season, Harvard has established itself as one of the top three-point shooting teams in the nation. Harvard ranks among the top teams in the nation in three-point field goals per game (8.2, 31st) and three-point field goal precentage (37.1%, 35th NCAA). Freshman Katie Benzan leads the team with 27 three-pointers on the year and a .466 three-point field goal percentage (24th, NCAA).

Harvard's sophomore guards had an immediate impact on the program as freshmen, as Madeline Raster started 25 of 28 games, Nani Redford started  in 16 games, and Sydney Skinner played a major role with 12 starts and 19.8 minutes per game. Through 10 games in 2016-17, the trio has combined for 24.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game.

In a season-opening 103-87 loss at Minnesota, the Crimson matched a program record, hitting 16 three pointers (16-for-30, 53.3%) on the night. It was the fourth time in program history that Harvard has hit 16 threes, and the first time since Feb. 28, 1998 (vs. Brown). Sophomore Madeline Raster hit six three-pointers (6-for-12) and led Harvard with 18 points.

Harvard broke the record for consecutive games with at least one three-pointer against Dartmouth two years ago (1/24/15). The Crimson has made at least one three-point field goal in 220-consecutive games dating back to 2008-09. The previous streak (172) began during the 1989-90 season and concluded in 1996-97.

The Crimson went 14-14 overall last season, earning a selection to the WNIT Tournament. It was the sixth appearance over the last eight years in the WNIT for the Crimson and the program's 12th postseason appearance, most of any Ivy League team. Harvard returns two starters and nine letterwinners from a year ago, including senior co-captain Destiny Nunley, who averaged 6.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game as the team's top reserve player.

Harvard was selected third in the Ivy League Preseason Media Poll. Harvard has finished in the top three of the Ivy League standings every year since 2006-07 (10 years). The Crimson earned 104 points in the poll, just behind Princeton, picked second with 110 points, and Penn, picked first with 136 points. Harvard finished 2015-16 in third place at 9-5 in the Ivy League, behind Princeton (12-2) and Ivy regular season champion Penn (13-1).

Seniors Taylor Finley and Destiny Nunley were named captains for 2016-17.

Finley, a native of Edina, Minn., recovered from offseason hip surgery to become a key reserve player for the Crimson in 2015-16. She appeared in 23 games and logged a season high 24 minutes against Rhode Island on Nov. 21, 2015.

Nunley, a Dallas-area Native,  was Harvard's top reserve last season, with 6.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. She recorded a season-high 15 points against Brown on Feb. 27 and had seven double-digit scoring efforts on the year.