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Women's college basketball notebook

How new Harvard women’s basketball coach Carrie Moore plans to build on the program left behind by Kathy Delaney-Smith

Harvard made the NCAA Tournament six times under 40-year coach Kathy Delaney-Smith.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

When Carrie Moore accepted Harvard’s head coaching job last spring, she held six workouts with her team before the recruiting phase began. Each one focused on defense after Moore noticed the Crimson struggled to corral rebounds and make stops in 2021-22.

“I came in and I said, ‘That’s going to be the side of the ball that I’m really going to focus on for this week that I have with you,’ ” she said. “And it was pretty fun, in my personal opinion.”

Harmoni Turner, though exhausted, agreed.

“The first day, I was out of breath,” Turner said. “She brought so much energy. It made the people that were there in that moment want to play for her, and she made a really great first impression.”

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Moore steps into coaching shoes worn for 40 years by Kathy Delaney-Smith, one of the titans of Massachusetts and Ivy League basketball. Delaney-Smith won a league-record 630 games, led Harvard to 11 conference tournament championships, and secured six NCAA Tournament berths.

Now it’s been turned over to Moore, who wants to sustain Harvard’s success, but with tough-nosed defense.

“We’ve already been talking about it currently — because we’re trying to find it consistently for 40 minutes — [but] it’s just setting the standard of relentless, gritty energy and effort for an entire game, and that being the separator for us, not just relying on, being able to score when we want,” she said.

Moore might be a first-time head coach at age 37, but she already has a loaded basketball résumé that includes stops in the Ivy League.

Moore graduated from Western Michigan in 2007 as the program’s all-time leading scorer, then played a pro season in Poland before joining Princeton as director of basketball operations. Moore then took assistant coaching gigs at Creighton, then back at Princeton, then North Carolina, and Michigan, where she helped the Wolverines reach the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight last season.

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Moore has the Crimson at 5-5, with three losses coming in a three-day span against Power Five programs at the Cancun Challenge. Even in Saturday’s 62-48 win over Colgate, Moore wasn’t satisfied with her team conceding some runs late in the second half.

“I will say this, I am not an easy coach to play for. I am on her all the time,” Moore said, gesturing at Turner. “And often, it’s tough love, because I love her to death, and I’m the first one to grab her and bring her in and talk about anything besides basketball — but once we’re in between the lines and I’m in coach mode, I’m going to hold them accountable.”

Turner is averaging 17.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.9 steals per game.Vera Nieuwenhuis/Associated Press

Turner is Harvard’s catalyst, a sophomore guard who joined the Crimson as a five-star recruit, captured All-Ivy second team and Rookie of the Year accolades as a freshman, and is now averaging 17.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.9 steals per game. Her assist rate has nearly doubled this season. Turner credits that spike to increased freedom in Moore’s offense.

“One thing that I do appreciate is [Moore] not taking anything away from my game, but adding to it,” Turner said. “I think that’s why my assists doubled — because of certain situations that I’d probably force up a shot [where] I could just kick to a teammate and be having that trust in them.”

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Turner shares some similarities with her new coach. She’s also not afraid to show tough love to her teammates when they huddle during game breaks. Both recognize their roles as pillars for the next era of Harvard basketball. When the Crimson head to the locker rooms after practice, Moore often takes Turner aside to make sure the two are in synch.

“I think that it’s important, right? I want to make sure we’re on the same page,” Moore said. “I want to make sure she understands that I believe in her [and] that I have all the confidence in the world in her. But at the same time, I have to coach you, and there’s tremendous strides that you can still continue to make, even though you’re already a really, really good basketball player.”

Moore has a support system with several past basketball connections, including Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico, North Carolina coach Courtney Banghart, and Creighton coach Jim Flannery. They help keep her confidence steady as she shapes the Crimson with her vision.

“For me, it’s just really trying to lay the foundation that I want to be proud of and that our staff can really be proud of,” Moore said.

Big numbers

Boston College junior Dontavia Waggoner became the third Eagle in the last five years to put up a 25-point, 10-rebound performance, logging 27 points and 10 rebounds in a 90-80 win over Boston University on Sunday ... UMass graduate student Sam Breen earned Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors after posting 20 points and 11 rebounds per game in a 2-1 week for the Minutewomen ... BU ranks fourth in the nation in 3-point percentage (41.5).

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