Though Dartmouth had been mired in an eight-game losing streak, forward Alex Barnett poured in 30 points to lead the Big Green. During the decisive overtime period, Barnett scored six of his team’s 13 points and also added a crucial steal that stopped Harvard’s comeback attempt. In the teams’ last matchup, when Harvard won at Dartmouth 63-62, Barnett was held to only nine points.
“We tried, as we did before, to limit his touches,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “He’s a good player and I think he got confidence. He was in a very good rhythm and there’s not much many people in our league can do once he gets going like that.”
After trailing the entire second half, Harvard pulled ahead, 57-56, with 4:32 left to play in regulation on freshman Keith Wright’s free throw. Dartmouth regained the lead, however, and held on until junior guard Jeremy Lin tied the game at 62 apiece on a layup with two seconds remaining.
Captain Andrew Pusar, who scored 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting in his last game against Dartmouth, also helped with a big three-pointer down the stretch that brought the Crimson to within 62-60, setting up Lin’s late heroics. Pusar finished the game with eight points and four rebounds.
Harvard was able to force overtime despite several key mistakes, including missed shots, free throws, and even a backcourt violation out of a timeout. Unfortunately, the Crimson managed only four points in overtime against Dartmouth, who forced three turnovers and several missed shots with stingy defense in the extra period. Harvard totaled 17 turnovers to Dartmouth’s six, which led to a 19-6 advantage in points off turnovers.
“We had some big breakdowns and deflating plays,” Amaker said. “It was tough for us in overtime, and it was just unfortunate.”
Lin once again paced the Crimson with 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Lin also added seven rebounds, four assists, and a devastating block in the first half that brought the crowd to its feet.
With six minutes left in the first half, Lin chased down Dartmouth’s Marlon Sanders, who was streaking on a breakaway, and swatted Sanders’ layup attempt away.
The game was largely controlled by the Big Green after it went on a dominating 20-5 run in the first half. The run erased Harvard’s seven-point lead, its largest, which came five minutes into the game. Dartmouth was able to score, seemingly at will, with short jumpers and aggressive drives to the basket. The Crimson was left playing catch-up the rest of the way and finally fell short in overtime.
“As a team, I think we didn’t come out with the energy that they did,” Lin said. “We missed balls, and they just played tougher than us.”
Junior Doug Miller was the only other Harvard player to score in double-digits.
The center finished with 13 points and four rebounds in just 17 minutes of play.
Forward Keith Wright had a big game on the glass with 13 rebounds, well above his 5.4-per-game average. Wright also contributed eight points.
Though Harvard was coming off a 13-day break for finals, Amaker refused to let the break become an excuse.
“We’re better than we played tonight,” Amaker said. “But we didn’t play as well as Dartmouth. They deserved the victory and we didn’t.”
The loss is Harvard’s first after an historic first win over a ranked opponent, when they defeated then-No. 17 Boston College, 82-70, on Jan. 7. Harvard then beat Dartmouth in New Hampshire, which helped Lin, Pusar, and freshman Oliver McNally earn Ivy League honors last week.
The loss also marks a disappointing start to the Ivy League component of the schedule, leaving Harvard 1-1 in conference play despite playing perennial bottom-feeder Dartmouth.
“Certainly there’s a blow to us with not having coming out on top,” Amaker said.
“That doesn’t mean we’re going to hang our heads and sulk about it,” the coach added. “It will inspire us to have a good week in practice.”
“We don’t have any excuses,” Lin said. “We need to shake it off, come back tomorrow and just get ready for the next weekend.”
Harvard’s next game is at home on Friday against Penn.
—Staff writer Lucas A. Paul can be reached at email@example.com.