Sophomore guard Sydney Skinner's career night (23 points) helped lift Harvard past Cornell. (Gil Talbot)
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Sophomore guard Sydney Skinner scored a career high 23 points, and junior Taylor Rooks added 13 points, six rebounds, and two steals off the bench to lift Harvard women's basketball (15-1, 3-0 Ivy League) to a 62-59 win over Cornell (11-5, 2-1 Ivy League). The win was Harvard's 15th straight overall, one shy of the program record, and 18th straight in the series against the Big Red, and helped the Crimson improve to 7-0 at Lavietes Pavilion.
"I thought we dug in and played defense at the end like we should, which is what we've done every step of the way," said head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith.
With the game tied at 46-46 early in the fourth quarter, Benzan's three from the wing with 8:30 to play put Harvard ahead, and the Crimson extended to 52-46 on Skinner's runner in the lane minutes later. Skinner hit a long three-pointer with 4:55 to go to give the Crimson more separation at 56-49, but Cornell cut to within one at 56-55 on Nia Marshall's layup and free throw with 3:11 to play.
The Big Red took the lead at 58-57 on two free throws with 2:30 to go, but Skinner again answered for Harvard. She hit a tough layup inside and then followed with a corner three to put Harvard up 61-57 with 1:44 to go.
"For Sydney (Skinner) to come off the bench with four fouls and do what she did - that's our team," said Delaney-Smith. "That's what we do."
Cornell cut the lead to two and then had chances to tie or take the lead on possessions in the final minute. But leading 62-59, freshman Jeannie Boehm (five points, 13 rebounds, three blocks) came up with a big block with 39 seconds to play and then Cornell missed two three pointers in the final 30 seconds, and Harvard had its 15th straight win.
Cornell jumped out to an 8-3 lead in opening minutes, using an 8-0 run to pull ahead, but Boehm answered with a hook shot in the post at the 5:45 mark, starting an 8-0 run for Harvard to help the Crimson retake the lead at 11-8 with 2:40 remaining in the opening quarter.
Rooks' three pointer helped give Harvard a 16-10 lead, and the Crimson maintained that margin at the break (18-12).
Cornell cut into Harvard's lead in the second quarter, making it 21-19 with 4:00 to play in the half on Nia Marshall's layup followed by two Kerri Moran free throws after an empty Harvard trip.
Skinner's three pointer from the corner momentarily stopped the Cornell run and put Harvard back up by two possessions, but the Big Red kept coming. Cornell closed the half with a Christine Ehland layup with three seconds on the clock, as Harvard led 26-25 at the break.
The game remained close in the third quarter, but Rooks continued her fantastic game, getting open for two layups to put Harvard up 34-30 with 6:00 to go in the frame. Cornell responded with a 6-0 run, and the same remained close throughout the third quarter, with the two teams tied at 44-44 heading into the fourth.
Harvard will host Columbia tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. in a game that will air on the Ivy League Digital Network. To watch the complete game archive of Harvard-Cornell, click here.
NOTES: President of Harvard University and Lincoln Professor of History Drew Gilpen Faust was joined by Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development, Professor of Sociology, Danoff Dean of Harvard College and Faculty Dean of Cabot House Rakesh Khurana and his wife, Faculty Dean of Cabot House Stephanie Khurana on the Harvard bench as honorary coaches for tonight's game.
"It was pretty exciting," Faust said. "One of the things I liked the best is that the kids coach themselves and then Kathy (Delaney-Smith) comes in and they are so much in tune with what she says. It's wonderful to watch."
"This is an incredible leadership development experience for our students," Rakesh Khurana said. "Obviously we love it when they win, but what's most important is the character development."