Eventually, the UNH women’s basketball team knew its run would come to an end.
The Wildcats ended their historic season with a 69-56 loss to Harvard on Friday night in Durham in the opening round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
UNH capped the year at 26-6, the best record in program history, and won 20 of the final 23 games on the schedule. The only issue was that the Wildcats lost the last two. And both of those losses happened to be in the postseason.
After the Wildcats lost to Maine in the semifinals of the America East tournament, they lost out on a chance to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. But a regular-season title helped UNH earned just its second WNIT invite. Although it wasn’t the postseason tournament they wanted to play in, the Wildcats made the most of their trip.
Brittni Lai scored 17 points Friday night to lead UNH but couldn’t single-handedly overcome the four Harvard players that scored in double figures.
Destiny Nunley scored 19 points on 9 of 10 shooting from the field, while Katie Benzan (15 points), Taylor Rooks (12 points) and Madeline Raster (11 points) also helped the Crimson to a 51 percent outing shooting from the field.
Harvard improved to 21-8 and earned a second-round game at St. John’s University on Sunday.
UNH’s Carlie Pogue, the America East Player of the Year, finished with seven points and a team-high nine rebounds. Ashley Storey also scored seven points, while Kat Fogarty and Aliza Simpson chipped in six points apiece.
The Wildcats went on a 10-0 run midway through the first quarter to take a 16-11 lead and led 18-17 at the end of the first. But Harvard stormed back with a 6-0 run of its own to open a 33-29 lead at halftime.
Harvard, which outrebounded the Wildcats 38-32, scored 40 of its points in the paint and overcame 12 turnovers in the victory.
Despite the not-so-happy ending, UNH has reason to be optimistic. The ’Cats will graduate only one starter in Kristen Anderson, meaning seventh-year Coach Maureen Magarity, who is a nominee for Division I Coach of the Year, will retain most of the talent that led to this year’s historic run.
And now the Wildcats will be armed with a little bit of postseason experience and a whole lot of belief.