Raster Paces Women's Basketball to 70-65 Win Over Dartmouth in Ivy Opener

Sophomore guard Madeline Raster paced Harvard with 17 points in a 70-65 win over Dartmouth. (Gil Talbot)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Sophomore guard Madeline Raster had 17 points and a career high nine rebounds, freshman guard Katie Benzan added 12 points, and junior guard Taylor Rooks notched a career high 12 points to lead Harvard women's basketball (12-1, 1-0 Ivy) to a 70-65 win over Dartmouth (5-9, 0-1 Ivy) in its Ivy League opener at Lavietes Pavilion.

Harvard earned its 12th straight victory, matching its longest streak in 10 years (12 straight wins in 2006-07), and improved to 6-0 at Lavietes Pavilion this season.

Down by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter, Harvard clawed back into the game midway through the fourth quarter. Trailing 56-47, sophomore guard Nani Redford kicked off an 8-2 run with a three from the wing with 8:23 to play. Benzan hit a layup on a back cut off a nice feed from Sydney Skinner. Then Benzan hit a three on Harvard's next possession to make it 58-55 with 6:52 to go.

Dartmouth remained in front until the final minutes, when Harvard made several big plays to regain and retain the lead. Trailing 65-64, with the ball underneath the basket after a timeout, Skinner was fouled after making a nice cut for an open layup attempt, then hit both free throws to put Harvard ahead by one with 1:28 to go.

After two empty possessions for Dartmouth, Raster hit a teardrop jumper in the lane to put Harvard up 68-65 with 16.6 seconds left. With a chance to tie, Dartmouth's Andi Norman tried a straightaway three-pointer, but the shot rimmed out, and Harvard grabbed the rebound. With 4.3 seconds left, Skinner iced the game with two free throws, and the Crimson hung on for the win.

Harvard built an early lead with good defense, forcing three turnovers on Dartmouth's first four possessions of the game, The Crimson led 9-0 after Raster's three pointer from straightaway followed by Katie Benzan's drive and layup. Harvard held Dartmouth scoreless for the first 5:15 of the game, but the Big Green responded with a big run to get to within one at 12-11 with 2:00 to play.

Raster had 10 of her 15 first half points in the opening quarter to pace the Crimson, her last bucket an off-balance reverse layup to put Harvard up 14-11 late in the quarter, a lead that Harvard maintained at 19-15 at the end of the frame.

Dartmouth took its first lead of the game early in the second quarter on a three from Kate Letkewicz (12 points), putting the Big Green ahead 20-19, which Dartmouth extended to 25-21 at the media timeout of the second quarter. Harvard quickly answered, using a mini-run to tie the game at 26-26 after Rooks' basket and free throw with 4:00 to play in the half.

Rooks put Harvard back ahead late in the quarter, grabbing an offensive rebound and hitting a putback and free throw to put Harvard ahead 36-33 with 1:15 to go, the same margin that the Crimson led at the half (38-35).

Dartmouth continued its hot shooting early in the second half, tying the game at 44-44 on a three pointer from Fanni Szabo (16 points) with 6:03 to play in the third quarter. Redford three pointer with 3:45 to play in the half put Harvard back ahead. Dartmouth closed the quarter with an 8-0 run to regain the lead at 52-47 heading into the fourth quarter.

Harvard will play its final non-conference game of the season with a road contest this Wednesday (Jan. 11) at La Salle (8-6), with tip off scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

Game Notes: The Crimson began a 43rd season of league play today against the Big Green…Harvard now leads the all-time series against Dartmouth 46-34…Harvard sits at 25-18 all-time in Ivy League openers and 22-13 under head coach Kathy Delaney- Smith…Harvard has opened against Dartmouth in 16-straight seasons, with Harvard holding a 11-6 edge in those contests.