BERKELEY, Calif.—After fighting back throughout the second half, Cal finally took its first lead of the period with 1:50 remaining in the contest.
At that point, few would have been surprised if the Harvard men’s basketball team had folded—after all, the Crimson’s young squad was facing a Pac-12 opponent in its home arena 3,000 miles away from Cambridge.
But staring at its first deficit in more than 35 minutes, Harvard responded.
The Crimson (7-4) closed the contest on a 6-0 run and came away with a 67-62 victory over the favored Bears (8-4) on Saturday night at Haas Pavilion.
“What a sensational win for our program,” said Crimson coach Tommy Amaker, whose squad has now won three straight contests for the first time this season. “I thought our kids did a magnificent job of showing a great deal of poise and composure.”
After the Bears took the 62-61 lead off a David Kravish layup, the Crimson swung the ball to sophomore wing Wesley Saunders on the perimeter with the shot clock expiring. Saunders put the ball on the deck, and, with one tick left on the shot clock, drew a foul at the basket.
The sophomore drilled both free throws—his 17th and 18th points of the night—to put the Crimson up one with 1:13 to go.
Coming out of a timeout, Cal looked to inbound the ball to guard Justin Cobbs on the left sideline. But the junior was whistled for an offensive foul for pushing off rookie point guard Siyani Chambers, returning possession to the Crimson with 56 seconds remaining.
“He’s smarter than I am, and he used that to his advantage,” Cobbs said of Chambers. “He was able to flop a few times.”
On the other end, the Crimson milked the clock until Chambers—who struggled shooting the ball all night—let fly a three-pointer fly with 25 seconds left. The attempt was off its mark, but sophomore forward Jonah Travis pulled down the rebound.
With the shot clock turned off, the Bears sent Chambers to the stripe, where the rookie extended Harvard’s lead to three with 17 seconds remaining.
Coming out of another timeout, Cobbs dribbled up the court but lost the ball out of bounds—his fifth turnover of the contest. Junior co-captain Laurent Rivard proceeded to ice the game with two free throws.
“In a situation like this three things are important: concentration, composure, and confidence,” Amaker said. “I thought all three of those words could be used to describe the boys this evening.”
In addition to their critical free throws down the stretch, the trio of Saunders, Chambers, and Rivard carried the Crimson offensively throughout the contest, accounting for 44 of the Crimson’s 67 points and 11 of its 13 assists.
Rivard finished with a season-high 19 points after hitting 5-of-12 attempts from beyond the arc. Chambers also set a new mark for himself, dishing out nine assists.