The most brutal half of basketball Harvard has played all season begot the biggest win of the year for the Crimson, as the men’s basketball team roared back from a nine-point halftime deficit to beat archrival Princeton, 50-43, on Saturday night at Lavietes Pavilion.
After scoring only 12 points in the opening period, Harvard dashed off a 15-0 run early in the second half to take control of the game and gain vengeance for the team’s double-overtime defeat at Princeton on Feb. 9. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak against the Tigers and pushed Princeton even further into the Ivy basement in the process. It was only Harvard’s second defeat of the Tigers in the last 16 meetings between the two teams.
“[The win] was well-deserved,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “It was needed desperately by these kids.”
The win on Senior Night, with the team honoring captain Jim Goffredo and forward Brian Darcy before their last home game, ended a streak of five straight league losses and prevented the Crimson from duplicating last year’s painful eight-game slide at the end of the season.
“Jimmy [Goffredo] and [Darcy], they worked hard with us the whole year, and we did not want to see them go out their last home stand getting swept,” said sophomore point guard Drew Housman, who scored a game-high 20 points. “No one ever felt like we were going to lose, even when we got down 11 in the second half.”
Twenty minutes into the game, however, it looked as if Goffredo and Darcy’s final memory of Lavietes Pavilion would be the sight of the Tigers once again celebrating on Harvard’s home court. After pulling ahead 6-2 in the early going, Harvard would not hit a field goal for the remainder of the half, a stretch of almost 17 minutes and 14 attempts. Time after time down the court, the Crimson either turned the ball over or had a shot rim out of the hoop, as the Tigers used their methodical, motion-oriented offense to grind out a 21-12 halftime lead. The only thing that prevented that deficit from growing much larger was the uncharacteristically stingy Harvard defense, which held Princeton to only seven field goals on 30 percent shooting.
After Tigers center Zach Finley dropped in a hook shot to open the scoring in the second half, pushing the lead to 11, the Crimson snapped out of its offensive stupor. A jumper by Housman broke the seal on the Harvard basket and served to ignite the explosive point guard and his team. Goffredo earned his first two points on a driving bank shot, sophomore forward Andrew Pusar drove baseline for a layup, and then Housman took the game over, scoring nine straight points, all on a series of drives and high banks off the glass, to give the Crimson a 27-23 lead. Housman was able to get to the basket at will against the Tigers defense, calling to mind his 33-point performance in the loss at Princeton earlier in the year. The Tigers again had no answer for the elusive point man, who was able to repeatedly shake his defender at the top of the key and finish strong at the hoop.
The Crimson would never trail for the remainder of the game, although Princeton did manage to keep the affair close until late. After Goffredo hit a driving layup to put Harvard up 36-29 with 5:45 to play, Tigers forward Justin Conway scored four straight points to pull Princeton within three and bring back memories of last season’s 60-59 Tigers win at Lavietes Pavilion, when Harvard held a six-point lead with a minute to play, only to collapse in heartbreaking fashion.
Housman and Goffredo had both been present for that debacle, however, and both were determined not to let the Crimson suffer another disastrous loss to Princeton. Two free throws from Housman after another successful drive pushed the lead back to five, and after Tigers guard Marchus Schroeder blew a chance at a layup, Goffredo pulled up on the other end to nail a jumper. The shot made it 40-33 with 2:13 to play, effectively finishing a Princeton team that had clearly run out of gas on both ends of the floor.
“All the shooting stuff doesn’t really mean anything when you get the win,” said Goffredo, who has suffered through an extremely difficult year shooting the basketball. “It was nice to hit that big shot, and just put the game away.”
—Staff writer Caleb W. Peiffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.