Title Hopes Fade as M. Basketball Loses to Yale and Brown
NEW HAVEN, CT., PROVIDENCE, R.I.-- Parity is emerging in Ivy League men's basketball, but so far it isn't helping the Harvard Crimson.
Only a week after defeating defending conference champions Penn and losing a squeaker to Princeton at home, the Crimson (12-10, 5-5 Ivy) found itself regressing in the league, dropping two on the road to Brown (11-11, 5-4) and Yale (9-13, 6-3).
On Friday, in Providence, Harvard continuously shot itself in the foot with turnovers and poor rebounding in a 90-82 loss to the streaking Bears. Saturday night was more of the same, as horrific shooting and timely mistakes cost the Crimson in a 66-58 loss at Yale.
Yale 66, Harvard 58
On Saturday in New Haven, Yale didn't need overtime.
Instead, the Elis capitalized on the entire Crimson squad's anemic shooting and used a 22-9 run in the second half to turn the game from a nail-biter to a snoozer.
Four of Yale's starters scored double figures, including center Neil Yanke, whose 18 points led all scorers.
Both sides started the game with sluggish offense. The two Harvard guards, sophomores Patrick Harvey and Elliott Prasse-Freeman, went a combined 2-of-11 from the floor in the first half, including missing all five of their three-point attempts.
The Crimson, who shot 9-of-30 (30 percent) overall in the first half, could only generate offense on the offensive glass. Harvard had eight points off nine offensive rebounds in the half.
On the other side of the ball, Yale was shooting poorly with the exception of its captain, Yanke, who scored points with ease. While the rest of the offense plodded along on 7-of-18 shooting, the 6'11 Yanke hit all five of his field goals and finished with 11 points in the first half. Yanke was trouble for his main defenders, sophomore centers Brian Sigafoos and Onnie Mayshak, who combined for five fouls in the half.
Despite Harvard's problems with Yanke, it was only down 31-27 at the half. After the break, it looked like Harvard might finally be able to take the lead when Mayshak was on the free throw line for two shots with Harvard down 36-35. But Mayshak, the team's worst free-throw shooter (36.7% going into the weekend), missed both.
Yale's Chris Leanza and Scott Gaffield then hit back-to-back threes to put the Elis up seven. Harvard would never get as close as it had and Yale went on a 22-9 run in the next eight minutes to put the game out of reach.
"Yale had very timely momentum-like shots--threes, baseline drives with fouls," Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. "Any time they sensed a lull, they were able to get over the hump with very timely baskets."
Harvard continued its abysmal shooting in the second half, going 13-of-39 (33.3 percent) from the floor. Even worse, the Crimson hit only one out of 13 three-point attempts in the second half (7.7 percent).
While Yanke, Leanza, guard Isaiah Cavaco and forward Ime Archibong would all finish with double-digit point totals, Clemente could muster only 13 and Harvey, the team's next-leading scorer, fouled out with only five points and no three-point baskets.
"Clearly the issue for us was our inability to score points," Sullivan said. "We really didn't shoot the ball well. The poor shooting was contagious."
Brown 90, Harvard 82
In the end, the most important statistic may have been that the Bears turned the ball over less (16 turnovers to the Crimson's 22), leading to their eight-point win over Harvard at the Pizzitola Sports Center.
Brown started the game on fire, as guard Omari Ware scored seven straight points in the first 3:30 and helped the Bears build an early 12-2 lead. Those seven points would be Ware's only seven for the half, however, and the Crimson used an 8-0 run late in the half to pull to within two and finish the half down only 35-28.
The numbers in the first half were mostly in Brown's favor. While both teams uncharacteristically failed to hit a three-pointer (a combined 0-of-14), the Bears' powerful inside combo of Shaun Etheridge and Alai Nuualiitia helped Brown gain a 24-15 rebounding advantage, including nine offensive boards. With those rebounds, the Bears held a 9-0 edge in second-chance points.
"We were running uphill all night with rebounding," Sullivan said.
The Crimson came out stronger offensively in the second half and pulled to within 44-43 on a Sigafoos layup four minutes in. For the next three minutes, however, Brown's star guard, Earl Hunt, who torched Harvard for 39 points in last year's contest in Providence, came alive and led the Bears on a 12-3 run that put them up by 10 points.
Harvard continued to fight to stay in the game but kept making mistakes. The turnovers failed to abate, and despite not hitting a three-pointer until ten minutes into the second half, Brown continued its offensive dominance inside. Nuualiitia and Etheridge, who both finished the game with double-doubles, not only scored inside at will but also drew plenty of fouls.
For most of the second half the Crimson played short-handed due to foul trouble. Clemente, Prasse-Freeman and several others only saw inconsistent minutes at the end of the game. Prasse-Freeman fouled out with 5:53 left and Clemente followed soon thereafter, having scored only 11 points.
The foul situation bordered on absurd, with the referees calling 50 fouls during the game (20 on Harvard in the second half alone), including a technical on Brown coach Glen Miller.
Coach Sullivan commented later that the fouls had to do with the NCAA's emphasis on cracking down on hand-checking.
"We just couldn't guard without fouling," Sullivan said. "We've struggled adjusting to the way the games are being called. I think some of our players might be of that persuasion--I think some college basketball players are still not backing down, and the refs aren't backing down."
The Crimson got down by as much as 13 in the end, and closed the gap to five before finally going down in the final minutes.
Hunt finished with 23 points to lead all scorers, and the Crimson was paced by sophomore guard Brady Merchant (19 points) and Sigafoos, who had a double-double (12 points and 12 rebounds).
Sullivan had an easy explanation for disparity in points off turnovers--Brown's 36 to Harvard's 17--and the 20-12 edge the Bears held in second-chance points.
"When we didn't shoot the ball well, we didn't help ourselves in any regard--didn't take care of the ball, didn't get rebounds, and didn't get stops," Sullivan said.
The two losses drop Harvard to 5-5 in the Ivies, good for a tie with Columbia for fifth place. Yale and Brown both swept the weekend, and surprisingly Yale sits in a three-way tie for first with Penn and Princeton. While mathematically not out of the title chase, the Crimson's chances are slim.
"History will tell us that in the '90s, the champions in the Ivy League had either zero losses or one loss, and in the '80s it was three losses, occasionally four. For the most part, four losses is not going to do it in the end," Sullivan said after the Brown loss.
Coupled with the Yale loss, a three-game losing streak and Penn and Princeton on the road this weekend, even four straight wins may not do it in the end for the Crimson.