The Harvard women’s basketball team has gotten a crash course in Ivy League basketball over the last three weeks, and it’s certainly not a walk in the park.
Still, coach Kathy Delaney-Smith’s Crimson have emerged with a 4-2 conference record through six games and sit 1 1/2 games back of 5-0 Penn.
“I’ve seen welcome to the Ivy League,” Delaney-Smith told NESN.com about her team’s recent play. “That’s what I’ve seen and felt. You know, the league is quite special and I think on any given night, anybody can do anything and that’s sort of how the league has been going, you know, no one has gotten Penn yet, but some close ones. I think the league is very exciting, we dropped two, which we didn’t want to, but that’s what makes the Ivy League so exciting.”
After falling 75-65 to Columbia on Feb. 8, the Crimson responded the next night by securing a 68-61 win over Cornell. Inconsistency is something Harvard has battled all season, and coach Delaney-Smith knows they’ll need to clean that up ahead of a weekend that sees Princeton come to town (Friday at 7 p.m. on NESNplus) followed by undefeated Penn on Saturday.
“My feeling about when we, you know, miss the mark — I feel we are inconsistent,” Delaney-Smith said. “So, if one person’s not shooting well, everybody’s not shooting well. And I think that’s probably normal for most teams, but it’s definitely true of my team, so I think we have to compartmentalize a little bit better and understand that we have a lot of people that score, that can shoot, that can score on multi-levels and we shouldn’t overreact to any one player missing a shot or having a bad night and I think unfortunately we do sort of get caught up in that.”
Compartmentalization will be key this weekend as Harvard can’t get caught looking past Princeton on its way to a date with league-leading Penn.
“Yeah, this is what Ivy means,” Delaney-Smith said. “It’s sort of like a tournament every weekend where we are used to playing Friday and Saturday, so we just take it one game at a time, really. I know that sounds generic, but I think every coach in the league would tell you to keep it one game at a time. That’s the company line.”
Princeton is no slouch, either. The Tigers sit at 3-2 in league play, just 1/2 game behind Harvard, and will present plenty of issues, starting with junior guard Bella Alarie (23.7 points per game) and sharp-shooting guard Gabrielle Rush (13.2). If the Crimson can stay focused on Princeton, they will get a shot to cut into Penn’s Ivy League lead Saturday, but it won’t be easy.
But, if you ask Delaney-Smith, nothing is easy in the Ivy.
You can watch Harvard take on Princeton on Friday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. on NESNplus. Here is NESN’s complete hockey and basketball schedule for Feb. 16-Feb. 18.
Friday, Feb. 15
7 p.m. ET — Hockey East: Boston University at UMass (NESN)
7 p.m. — Ivy League women’s basketball: Princeton at Harvard (NESNplus)
Saturday, Feb. 16
Noon — Patriot League men’s basketball: Bucknell at Holy Cross (NESNplus)
4:30 p.m. — ACC men’s basketball: Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh (NESN)
5 p.m. — Ivy League women’s basketball: Princeton at Dartmouth (NESNplus)
7 p.m. — Hockey East: Vermont at Northeastern (NESN)
7 p.m. — Ivy League women’s basketball: Columbia at Brown (NESNplus)
Sunday, Feb. 17
1 p.m. — ACC women’s basketball: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech (NESNplus)
2 p.m. — Hockey East women’s hockey: Providence at Northeastern (NESN)
3 p.m. — ACC women’s basketball: Virginia at North Carolina (NESNplus)