Following a disheartening loss to Brown the day before, Harvard hoped a win against its archrival Yale could put it back on track.
The Bulldogs wouldn’t go along with the Crimson’s plan.
Dominick Martin had 26 points, most of them within a few feet of the basket, as Yale defeated Harvard 77-66 at Lavietes Pavilion, sending the Crimson (12-11, 4-6 Ivy) to its fifth straight loss.
The Bulldogs (14-11, 6-4) swept the season series from Harvard for the first time since the 2002-2003 season.
“Just a discouraging weekend, a discouraging follow up to a difficult game last night,” said Harvard coach Frank Sullivan. “We were a little better tonight, but I thought Yale was up for the challenge.”
Unlike against Brown, the Crimson came into this game energized and full of spirit. This was evident from the opening tap as Harvard forced turnovers on Yale’s first two possessions of the game and took an early 4-0 lead, which forced the Bulldogs to take a timeout.
Unfortunately for Harvard, whatever Yale coach James Jones told his players must have worked, for the Bulldogs came out of the timeout and matched the Crimson’s intensity the rest of the way.
Junior center Brian Cusworth lead Harvard with a career high of 24 points, including 6-of-6 from the free throw line. In fact, the Crimson did not miss at all from the line, going 20-for-20 on the game.
While Cusworth was a strong force inside on the offensive end, there was little, he or anyone else could do to stop Martin down low.
Martin made 12-of-18 field goal attempts and for the most part avoided the foul trouble that had plagued him all season.
Yale for the game shot 49.2 percent from the floor, including 6-of-17 from beyond the three-point arc.
“Certainly central to our cause tonight was our inability to guard to start the game,” Sullivan said. “I thought Yale got a real good rhythm. We didn’t guard them particularily well behind the line, or near the rim.”
By contrast, the Crimson made only 2-of-14 three-point attempts, both by senior guard Michael Beal.
“I thought our guys did an excellent job defensively,” Jones said. “Our staple all year has been our half-court defense.”
Beal also led Harvard with 14 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end. He left the game with 4:29 left with an apparent knee injury but returned a minute and a half later.
Captain Matt Stehle suffered through his second straight subpar game, making only 1-of-11 from the floor, missing all four of his three-point attempts, and fouling out with 10 seconds left in the game.
“He had a rough two games,” Sullivan said. “I think he was extraordinarily frustrated tonight for sure.”
Unlike its two previous games, against Brown and Penn, Harvard was able to rally from early deficits and make the game close until the waning moments of the second half.
Trailing 35-30 at halftime, the Crimson scored the first five points of half number two to tie the score. Martin scored two quick baskets, but Harvard answered each of his scores, tying that game at 39-39 on a thunderous dunk from Cusworth with 16:19 to play.
However, Martin would score on Yale’s next possession and the Crimson would not answer for three and a half minutes, when Cusworth hit two free throws. In between those two scores, Yale went on a 10-0 run.
Harvard would fight back hard, but would not get closer than five points behind the rest of the way. The Bulldogs made 7-of-8 free throws once the Crimson resorted to fouling.
In the first half, Yale doubled up Harvard early, 18-9, but the Crimson went on an 11-2 run to tie the game at 20 on Beal’s tip in off his own miss.
In contrast to Harvard’s 82-74 loss in New Haven earlier this year in a roaring, partisan arena, there were just as many Bulldogs fans as Crimson supporters, and the crowd for the most part had little effect on the game.
“The reason we have such a good home record is because of our fans,” Yale guard Eric Flato said. “It’s a lot easier when you don’t have people yelling at you every time you touch the ball.”
Harvard travels to Penn and Princeton next weekend.
--Staff writer Ted J. Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.