NEW HAVEN, Conn.—This is what is referred to as “going out on a high note.”
In the final game of the Harvard men’s basketball season—which doubled as the last games of the collegiate careers of seniors Andrew Pusar, Drew Housman, and Evan Harris—the Crimson turned in one of its best performances of the season to down archrival Yale, 69-59, at John J. Lee Amphitheatre on Saturday.
The triumph over the Bulldogs (13-15, 8-6 Ivy) was especially sweet for the three seniors, as Harvard (14-14, 6-8 Ivy) had lost its last seven games in the rivalry—a drought that began with the senior class’s freshman campaign. The win was also the first for the team at Yale since the final game of the 1998-99 season and avenged an 87-66 beating at Lavietes Pavilion last month.
“It feels great,” forward Harris said. “I was 0-for-7, Drew was 0-for-7, Andy was 0-for-7 against Yale, and it’s been a while since we won here, so it feels great. Especially, not to be mean, but seeing that it was their senior night, these are the kinds of games you come to Harvard for: your rival, on their senior night, coming off a poor loss last night, it just feels great to get a win, especially to end your season with a win.”
Harris and point guard Housman each put in one of the finest games of the year in their curtain closer, while Pusar the captain hurt his ankle in the opening minute and could only play three minutes. Harris went 34 minutes and pulled down a team-high seven rebounds along with six points and three steals. When he fouled out with under a minute left, he received a great reception from the bench.
Housman continued his consistent dominance with 15 points—one of four Harvard players in double figures—and a game-high six assists. Junior guard Jeremy Lin had a game-best 19 points, with 14 of those in the second half, passing the 1000-point mark for his career, while freshmen guard Oliver McNally and forward Keith Wright tallied 16 and 11 respectively.
One of Housman’s hoops came at the end of the first half. With his team down one, he brought the ball up, drove the lane, and threw up a shot that rattled in at the buzzer, giving his guys a 33-32 lead at the break. The stage looked set for a nail-biting second half, but the Crimson would not follow the script.
“We had twenty minutes left in our season,” Harris said. “We felt bad for Andy because he couldn’t really go in the second half, and we all huddled up when the half started and wanted to do it for him and the seniors, and we held on and pushed it out.”
Indeed, after falling behind 36-35 almost two minutes in, McNally hit a three off a pass from Housman on the next possession, and Harvard would not lose the lead after that. Making 14-of-24 shots after the break and stifling the Bulldogs on defense into nine second-half turnovers, the lead was pushed to 10 at 53-43 halfway through the half. Twice Yale cut the lead to single digits, but was severely limited in opportunities, as Housman, Lin, and McNally took excellent care of the basketball and milked the clock on every Crimson possession. Two straight baskets by Lin around the five minute mark—the first a steal and fast-break layup, the second a driving acrobatic three-point play—gave the team its largest lead, and the seniors were on their way to savoring a great final victory.
“It was really awesome,” said Housman, who finishes his career 12th on the program’s all-time scoring list. “I feel like I came full-circle. The first time we played up here freshman year, I had an awful game, and we lost. It was nice to play well and get this victory. I’m now 1-7 in my career against Yale, instead of 0-8.”
The win gives the seniors their best Ivy record in their four years. It also left the team at .500 for the season, the first time it posted a non-losing mark since 2001-’02.
“I think this is a huge step forward,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “To be able to finish .500, not having a losing season, and to finish the way we were able to finish tonight here on the road, I think this is a huge step forward to where we want to go,”
—Staff writer Ted Kirby can be reached at email@example.com.