With losses to Brown and Yale, Harvard fell to 3-11 in the League, a mark good enough for a last-place tie with Dartmouth and potentially Princeton.
In its season finale Saturday night at Lavietes Pavilion, the Harvard men’s basketball team (8-22, 3-11 Ivy) looked determined to end the year on a high note against rival Yale (13-15, 7-7).
Despite a hot start by the Crimson, the Bulldogs used a late first-half run and forced several Harvard turnovers to end its season on a three-game winning streak and defeat the Crimson, 81-65.
The game’s first eight minutes consisted of crisp all-around play from Harvard. Juniors Andrew Pusar and Drew Housman, and sophomores Dan McGeary and Jeremy Lin each hit threes in the stretch to help Harvard jump out to a 20-7 advantage.
“Certainly I thought we came out with a great deal of energy and excitement,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “Our kids really competed very hard. We had a nice lead there because we played really hard defensively.”
Yale had eight turnovers in the first eight minutes of the ballgame, giving the Crimson opportunities on offense.
“We were hitting things because we were guarding defensively,” Amaker said.
Then reality set in.
After trading buckets over the next few minutes, Harvard led 27-16 with 6:52 to play in the half. From there, the Bulldogs used a 23-3 run and 15 first-half Crimson turnovers to take a nine-point lead into the locker room. Harvard would never get closer.
“I thought the same thing that happened to us in New Haven [on Feb. 8] happened again here,” Amaker said. “We turned it over out in the middle of the floor and they were able to climb the backboard and get second chance opportunities and get energy from those two aspects of the game. And that really doomed us.”
Trailing 29-27, Yale sharpshooter Eric Flato drained a three from the left side to give the Bulldogs a lead they would never relinquish.
A bad-pass turnover by junior center Cem Dinc gave Yale the ball back, and Bulldogs’ junior forward Travis Pinick—who finished with team highs of 16 points and 14 rebounds—scored in the post. Another Dinc turnover on a steal by Yale freshman Porter Braswell on the next possession led to more easy points.
“He’s in there to speed up the game, bring energy, defend, hawk the ball, get steals, push it up and find the shooters,” Amaker said of Braswell, who finished with eight points and five steals. “He’s been very effective in that role.”
Flato would hit another three and Braswell another layup before intermission to extend to a 39-30 lead at the break.
“In this league, if you get lackadaisical for just one second, they’ll make you pay, just like we saw tonight,” Pusar said.
After Yale scored the first two buckets of the second half to extend the run to 27-3, the outcome was never in doubt.
When the Crimson got within nine at 43-34, the Bulldogs kept the pressure on, scoring seven unanswered to extend the lead to 16 at 50-34, capped off by a three-point play by Pinick.
Not wanting to go down without a fight, Lin looked to take the game into his own hands. On back-to-back possessions, the sophomore hit jumpers—first a fadeaway from the left side, then an 18-footer from the top of the key. But, it was too little too late for the Crimson.
Yale’s lead soon ballooned to 20, before Amaker pulled his starters—including captain Brad Unger (six points, five rebounds), playing his final Harvard basketball game—in favor of his bench in the final minutes.
Lin finished with a game-high 19 points, five rebounds, and four steals. Fellow guards Pusar and Housman added 14 and 12, respectively. The trio finished with eight steals, but they also had nine turnovers.
“I thought Jeremy in particular, he’s been consistent for us, given us great energy all over the floor,” Amaker said. “I thought Drew made some shots for us tonight, looking for his offensive production. But you know, you have 20 turnovers for our team—that’s one of the key stats for why we played as poorly as we did.”
Defense was the name of the game, as both teams committed 20 turnovers, while Yale notched 13 steals and Harvard had 15. The Bulldogs outrebounded the Crimson, 40-25.
With the loss, the Crimson finished Ivy League play tied for last place with Dartmouth at 3-11. With a loss tomorrow night, Princeton could join the two in the cellar.
“I think certainly we want to take away the good stuff from this season, be proud of what we did, but at the same time, get ready for next year, regroup and really come back strong,” Pusar said. “Obviously we have a couple of big wins in there, we have the Penn and Princeton sweep, and we beat Michigan. We have potential and hopefully we can build on that, tighten up a little bit on some of the holes, and hopefully we’ll come back next year and have a great year.”
—Staff writer Kevin C. Reyes can be reached at email@example.com.