Junior forward Brad Unger, shown here in earlier action, notched his first career double-double in Harvard’s loss at Yale.
NEW HAVEN, Conn.—The Harvard men’s basketball team staggered in the second half on Saturday night at Yale in front of 2,532 raucous fans, and lost its eighth straight game at the John J. Lee Amphitheater, 86-71.
Added to the injury of yet another setback in what has become the Ivy League’s most hostile environment, the Crimson (10-14, 3-7 Ivy) had to endure the insult of the Ivy League championship trophy being presented at halftime to Yale’s football team, which split the league title with Princeton. The crowd roared when Bulldogs football coach Jack Siedlecki announced that the real reason the team was there was to watch Yale beat Harvard again—an allusion to his squad’s 34-13 win in Cambridge this past November—and then watched gleefully as the Bulldogs (12-11, 8-2) dismantled Harvard over the final 20 minutes.
A close game at halftime was turned into a laugher down the stretch, prompting the entire Yale football team, clad in white home jerseys and standing throughout the game in the rabid “Dawg Pound” student section, to start a “just like football” chant.
“Well, they just happened to pick the Harvard game to bring out the football troops,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “Weren’t there any other home games you could have done that?”
“But it was a good environment,” Sullivan added. “The whole environment was invigorating.”
Unfortunately for the Crimson, however, it was especially invigorating for the Bulldogs, who used the halftime period to regroup after letting a nine-point lead dwindle down to two at the intermission. Whether it was due to the energy of the crowd and the trophy presentation, Harvard’s lack of defense, or simply the Bulldogs superiority as a team, Yale gradually pulled away from the Crimson and coasted down the stretch to its seventh win in its last eight games.
“One minute we were down by two, the next minute we were down by 12,” said sophomore point guard Drew Housman. “It was us being stagnant on offense, and them being relentless penetrating the ball and hitting some good shots—especially their big guys hit some tough fadeaways.”
The Bulldogs were astoundingly efficient on offense in handing Harvard its fourth straight loss. After shooting a scalding 59.3 percent in the first half, Yale improved in the second, converting on two thirds of its attempts after halftime—16-of-24 from the floor—while limiting the Crimson to 10-of-30 shooting. For the game, the Bulldogs shot 62.7 percent, the highest mark that Harvard has allowed all season, raising the Crimson’s field goal percentage defense in league play to .499, worst in the Ivy League.
Harvard was unable to stop forward Ross Morin, who poured in a game and career-high 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting. The 6’7 Morin had his way against the Crimson frontcourt, dumping in a variety of jump shots in the painted area against futile defensive pressure.
Harvard’s defense also had difficulty with its traditional nemesis, the three-point shot. Thanks to quick-release sharpshooters Caleb and Nick Holmes, who each hit a pair of trifectas, Yale was 8-of-15 from downtown for the game, compared with just 3-of-15 for the Crimson—a difference that perfectly accounted for the 15-point gap between the teams at the end of the night.
The Bulldogs’ big second half destroyed the considerable momentum Harvard had accumulated heading into the break. After jumping out to a quick 9-0 lead, igniting the student section, Yale allowed the Crimson to reel off a 9-0 run of its own to tie it right back up, reminiscent of the game at John J. Lee two years ago when the Bulldogs used the energy of the crowd to go up 12-0 before Harvard clawed back. That game went down to the final possession, with Yale hanging on by one in a heartbreaking loss for the Crimson.
When the Bulldogs took a slim 38-36 lead into halftime, it appeared that this year’s game would follow a similar path to the finish, before Morin and company quickly pulled away.
Harvard was led by Housman, who scored 16 points, and junior forward Brad Unger, who recorded the first double-double of his career with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Captain Jim Goffredo continued to struggle from the floor, hitting on just 1-of-11 to drop his field-goal percentage to .344 on the year.
Yale got a career-high 16 points (on 7-of-9 shooting) off the bench from forward Travis Pinick to go along with a game-high seven assists. Guards Eric Flato and Caleb Holmes each recorded six assists and scored in double figures.
The Crimson, which was swept on its four-game road trip, will look to stop the losing streak this Friday against league-leading Penn. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Lavietes Pavilion.
—Staff writer Caleb W. Peiffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.