The Merrimack Warriors opened their contest against the Harvard Crimson on Tuesday night at Lavietes Pavilion in Allston, Mass. by going 5-of-6 from beyond the arc.
Graduate student forward Mayson Kimball made three of those treys and would finish 6-of-9 from 3-point land while her team shot a blistering 16-of-27 (59.3 percent).
The problem for the Warriors is that Harvard star McKenzie Forbes can score in a variety of ways, not just from downtown, and led the Crimson to win the points in the paint battle 40-22. Forbes deserves credit for leading Harvard to victory with a team-high 23 points, but so do the six other players who made threes for the Crimson as they actually ended up one-upping Merrimack with a 17-of-28 (60.7 percent) effort from distance in a 99-75 victory.
“We score the ball really well, as you could see,” Forbes said. “I think we have five people on the court at all times that can shoot the ball and we play unselfish because of that and I think it shows up in the stat line.”
The stat line was certainly impressive on Tuesday night.
Forbes, a junior guard, made a team-high four triples on seven attempts, while senior guard Tess Sussman went 3-of-4 and sophomore guard Lola Mullaney went 3-of-6. Senior guard Maggie McCarthy, freshman guard Harmoni Turner and sophomore guard Kennedy Heath were all perfect with two attempts and sophomore forward Lindsey Lawson was 1-of-1.
McCarthy finished with 14 points, five rebounds and a team-high six assists, while Sussman (five assists) and Mullaney each contributed 15 points.
Kimball notched a game-high 24 points to along with five assists, while senior guard Kate Mager, who entered the contest 13-of-23 from long range on the season, went 4-of-8 from outside with 16 points in defeat.
“Our disappointment was that we let them shoot so well,” said Harvard head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith. “But, I don’t know what it is, is it the water here or what, but there are kids who took threes who are not 3-point shooters for them. We knew (Kimball) and (Mager) we're their big-time shooters, but (Diamond Christian) made 3-for-6. And (Kimball) should not have gotten (six), that infuriated me. And (Mager’s) 4-for-8, that was bad. Bad defense.”
Harvard opened up its biggest lead of the first quarter on a Sussman three that made it 22-14 Crimson with 4:38 to go before the second. Merrimack responded with an 8-0 run featuring triples from Mager and Kimball and a layup by Kimball. So the Warriors were pesky early on, but a key defensive stand for the Crimson would help them pull away.
A 6-0 run of threes from McCarthy and Turner gave Harvard a 33-25 lead and forced a Merrimack timeout at the 7:49 mark of the second. Out of that timeout, the Crimson all but forced a shot clock violation as Carla Balague air-balled a desperation three at the buzzer that was rebounded by Turner. The great defense from that possession gave Harvard energy and led to a three by Forbes on the other end. That was followed by a reverse layup and a mid-range make from Sussman that turned a 6-0 run into a 13-0 run and put the Crimson up 40-25. They led by at least eight the rest of the way.
The Warriors cut their deficit to eight on an Amaya Staton layup with 58 seconds to go in the first half and to nine on a Kimball three with 7:07 left in the third. However, Forbes subbed in with 3:19 to go before the fourth and took over.
She went on a 7-2 individual run against Merrimack that took the score from 64-54 Harvard to 71-56 Harvard and then capped the quarter with a 3-point play at one second remaining. She even stole the ensuing inbound pass and missed a three at the buzzer.
Forbes’ heroics came a game after she scored 26 and made the game-winning three in a victory over the BU Terriers. She is now largely responsible for Harvard’s first winning streak of the season as the team improved to 3-4 (0-0 Ivy).
Forbes transferred from the Cal Golden Bears, the team she averaged 5.3 points for as a freshman in 2018-19. Because of the pandemic, she had yet to play for Harvard before this season. She is the team’s leading scorer with 16 points per game.
“I think Kenzie has a great IQ,” McCarthy said. “She knows when to shoot, when to not, when to pass, when to kick. I think that’s something we needed on this team, so very happy to have Kenzie here. She finds me on my backdoor cuts. She’s fun to play with.”
Harvard led by as much as 25 in the fourth as it rained in six threes in the frame, including the final two, which came from a player in Heath who played just six minutes in the contest.
Merrimack fell to 2-4 (0-0 NEC). Harvard forced 29 turnovers and scored 30 points off of them. The teams combined to attempt just 11 free throws.