With 19 seconds remaining in a midweek matchup that saw 11 lead changes in the second half alone, Terriers’ guard D.J. Irving knocked down what could have been a game-winning jumper on the right wing to put his team up, 64-63.
But with the clock winding down in Tuesday night’s contest, freshman point guard Siyani Chambers found himself with the ball in his hands. The rookie pushed the ball up the court, faked in to create space on the wing, and fired off a jumper of his own. And the shot fell through the net in front of a sparse crowd at Lavietes Pavilion, giving the Harvard men’s basketball team a one-point lead with just five seconds left.
“I thought [Chambers] was brilliant in his composure there and shot faking and getting an open lane to the basket in terms of the look,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “He buried a short shot, an open shot that he’s pretty good at making, obviously.”
Although Irving—who finished with a game-high 24 points on 8-of-17 shooting and 4-of-7 from three—sprinted to the other end of the court and got off a shot inside the arc, the buzzer-beater rimmed out, letting Harvard claim a victory over crosstown rival BU, 65-64.
“Our kids executed [the end-of-game situation] brilliantly,” Amaker said. “That’s our strategy, our philosophy. That’s what we practiced. We try to get an open-floor situation and see if we can get a team to break down or even foul. We showed great composure [and] poise.”
Despite entering the second half down by seven after a collective 9-of-27 effort from the field—including 0-of-8 from three-point range—the Crimson quickly closed the gap. Chambers and co-captain Christian Webster led the way after the break, knocking down three and two treys, respectively, in the opening 6:32 of the second frame—going a collective 5-for-5 from deep during that time.
“What can you say about Siyani?” Amaker said “He’s been the heart and soul for us this year…. He was a savior for us. He made every big play that we needed, from the free throw line and obviously the game-winning shot.”
Although BU led by eight—the largest advantage held by either team at any point in the game—with 16:54 to play after a layup from Terriers forward Dom Morris, Harvard scored eight straight points to take a two-point lead just 2:49 later. The run included a four-point play from Chambers and a dunk from sophomore wing Wesley Saunders, who topped the Harvard scoring list with 21 and 16 points, respectively.
“Luckily I was able to hit some shots and my teammates hit some shots,” Chambers said. “Christian and [junior co-captain Laurent Rivard] both had some big shots down the stretch. And Wes made some great drives down the lane.”
From there, it was back-and-forth for the remainder of the contest, with neither team leading by more than four at any point.
“I though we shot the ball better [in the second half], which gave us some life and some energy,” Amaker said. “It certainly helped our crowd and got them behind us a little bit. We picked it up.”
With 3:06 to play in the first half, Smith converted a layup to tie up the game for the Harvard men’s basketball team at 23-23. But a 9-2 run by the Terriers in the remaining minutes gave BU a 32-25 lead before halftime.
Playing his first minutes since the Crimson’s Dec. 1 contest against Fordham, Smith had five blocks and six points in 16 minutes off the bench for the Crimson, including a two-handed dunk to give Harvard a four-point lead—its largest of the game—with 12:06 on the clock in the second half.
“[Smith] came in with some crucial minutes and made some big buckets for us and had some crucial blocks also,” Chambers said.
Webster—who had a season-high 13 points including three shots from long range—tied the game up for the Crimson, 60-60, with a three-pointer on the right wing off of a pass across the key from Chambers. And though Morris tied it up once again on a layup with 1:13 left to play, Harvard was able to close out the contest with one of two free throws from Saunders, and Chambers’ final basket.
“Both teams played exceptionally hard and made some incredible plays down the stretch to try to get the win,” Amaker said. “This is one of those games that, even though we came out on top, it’s hard for any team to lose a game like that.”
—Staff writer Chatherine E. Coppinger can be reached at email@example.com.