It was everything this Ivy League rematch was chalked up to be – a contentious battle with title implications. Behind a thrilling second half effort, the Princeton women’s basketball team outlasted Harvard 69-64 Saturday night in Cambridge, Mass.
Princeton now controls its own destiny in the Ivy League, sitting in sole possession of first place at 17-6, 8-1 Ivy. Penn entered the night tied for first with the Tigers, but fell to Dartmouth to move to 7-2 and Harvard drops to 7-3 in the league.
If senior leadership was ever more paramount it was against the Crimson, as co-captain Kristen Helmstetter not only stepped up individually, but provided a valuable presence on the floor that her teammates fed off of. The forward finished with 17 points and six rebounds, both team highs, in 39 minutes of work.
The first half saw a game of runs, as both sides pushed for control. Harvard opened with a 7-2 advantage, before a pair of Taylor Williams free throws set up a Tiger 5-0 run to knot things up at 16:38.
Williams had 11 points, going 5-for-6 from the line, with five boards, three blocks and two assists.
Princeton employed a 10-0 run spanning nearly six minutes to go up 17-15 at 8:50 and give the Tigers their first lead of the game. Like the early minutes, they were unable to contain their push and the Crimson countered with an 11-0 rally of their own and maintained the lead over the remainder of the half.
Under Helmstetter’s tutelage the Tigers remained within range and did not allow Harvard to carry off with a sizeable lead. Behind the forward’s 13 points, including a pair of crucial triples, Princeton went into halftime trailing only by a possession, 31-28.
The battle for control ensued through the second half, seeing an Annie Tarakchian trey top off a Tiger 7-3 run to tie the game, 41-41, at 12:03.
After a brief moment of both sides trading baskets, it was the Tigers who went on a 10-5 run led by two more Tarakchian triples to go up 51-46 with 8:28 to play.
Tarakchian had 15 points for a new career high, on 5-of-6 shooting from the field, in 19 minutes off the bench.
Harvard had one final push and tied it for the third time, 61-61, at 3:05, but it was not enough to derail Princeton.
Key down the stretch was Michelle Miller, who had six of the Tigers final eight points, as she went a perfect 6-for-6 from the line to tally 10 points on the day.
The Tigers will look to carry their momentum and seven-game winning streak into next weekend’s meetings at Yale (Feb. 28) and Brown (Mar. 1).