The last time the Harvard and Yale men’s basketball teams met, the Crimson was dominant en route to a 65-35 thrashing of the Bulldogs in New Haven.
Early on in the teams’ rematch Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion, Harvard looked poised for another blowout, especially after a floater by junior point guard Brandyn Curry capped a 23-4 Harvard run and put the Crimson up, 35-15, with 4:06 to go in the first half.
The Bulldogs clawed their way back with a 23-7 spurt of their own to cut the deficit to five. But at that point, the Crimson again turned to Curry, who executed a give-and-go off an inbounds with freshman Corbin Miller and hit a big three from the right corner to extend the Crimson lead to eight.
Harvard (23-3, 9-1 Ivy) never looked back from there, firmly establishing itself as the class of the Ancient Eight with its 66-51 victory over Yale (17-7, 7-3) and putting itself in position to clinch at least a share of the Ivy League title at home next weekend.
“There were a lot of factors that made this a big game,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “I was very, very proud of our kids for the effort they were able to bring.”
Curry’s long ball—which was followed by a Greg Mangano basket and a Miller three—was not even the zenith of Curry’s big night. On the next Crimson possession, the junior drove left baseline and threw down his first career dunk over the 6’10” Mangano as the crowd exploded with excitement and began chanting his name.
“I didn’t even know I dunked it, to be honest,” said a smiling Curry, who finished with a season-high 18 points. “I just went for it, and it happened.”
The slam gave the Crimson an 11-point lead, and Harvard stayed in control from there. Mangano hit a three with 5:03 to go to pull within eight, but Harvard responded with a 9-0 run that co-captain Keith Wright ended with a jam as the Crimson cruised to its second win of the season over its Ivy rivals.
“When we watch film and scouted [Yale], it’s kind of been the way they played a lot,” Amaker said. “They’ve been down and just kind of marched their way in and won games. That’s the mark of a good team, and a tough team, and certainly we had to play that way and more to beat that team tonight.”
Harvard dominated the first half until the final four minutes. Back-to-back threes by co-captain Oliver McNally pushed the Harvard lead to 15-9, and the Crimson scored eight more unanswered before Yale’s Michael Grace ended the scoring drought with a jumper.
From there, Harvard continued to pour it on with a 12-4 run during which five different players scored. Curry found Casey for a dunk with to put Harvard up, 33-15, and then the point guard split two defenders with a crossover and hit a baseline floater to cap the stretch and extend the Crimson lead to its largest point.
“I was just being aggressive,” Curry said. “Mangano’s a tough force down low, and they had a couple of guards who were hurt. So we just had to wear them down, and I was just attacking all night.”
Facing the possibility of another embarrassing blowout loss, Yale found its game as the half wound down. Jeremiah Kreisberg halted the Harvard run with a put-back layup, and nine more unanswered Bulldog points cut the Crimson advantage to 35-26 heading into the break.
Yale stayed hot early in the second, and a Kreisberg jumper over Casey cut the lead to 39-34. Curry responded with a jumper, but Mangano matched, and two free-throws by the Bulldog center brought the visitors within four moments later.
Amaker then called a timeout and orchestrated Miller’s give-and-go with Curry, who came in shooting just 24 percent from long range. But the junior nailed the three to give Harvard some much-needed breathing room.