ITHACA, N.Y.—There may be no better indicator of just how far the Harvard men’s basketball program has come than the Crimson’s reaction following Saturday night’s 67-63 win over Cornell Saturday night at Newman Arena.
Despite clinching at least a share of the program’s second consecutive Ivy League championship, Harvard’s celebration was relatively subdued following its win over the Big Red.
Crimson coach Tommy Amaker briefly lifted his arm into the air, and co-captain Keith Wright gave junior Kyle Casey a hug, but Harvard disappeared into the locker room shortly after shaking hands with Cornell.
With Penn’s 68-47 victory over Yale Saturday night, the Quakers (19-11, 11-2 Ivy) and Crimson (26-4, 12-2) remain even in the loss column with one game remaining in the Ancient Eight schedule.
If Penn defeats Princeton on the road Tuesday night in the Ivy League’s regular season finale, Harvard will square off against the Quakers this weekend in a one-game playoff to determine the recipient of the Ivy League’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
“If we have to play some more, we’ll play,” said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, whose squad nearly squandered an 11-point second-half lead on Saturday.
Spurred by senior guard Chris Wroblewski’s 15 second-half points, the Big Red cut the Crimson’s lead to one with 3:54 to play but was unable to get any closer.
Co-captain Oliver McNally scored nine points in the final 2:21 of play, leading the Crimson on an 11-8 run to seal the title-clinching win.
McNally and fellow guard Brandyn Curry, who combined for 26 second-half points, came up big for Harvard throughout the final frame.
After going scoreless in the first half, Curry scored 12 straight points for the Crimson off four three-pointers during a stretch of 3:27, turning a one-point deficit into a seven-point Harvard lead.
“I was just taking my open shots,” said Curry, who entered Saturday’s contest shooting 26.2 percent from deep. “[Coach] always yells at us to be ready to take our open shots. I just stepped up and took ’em. Fortunately, they gave me four open ones, and they went in finally.”
Curry’s first triple came just moments after the Big Red grabbed its first lead of the game off a Jonathan Gray three-pointer with 17:31 to play.
Curry answered 11 seconds later, sticking a shot off a McNally pass.
The Big Red regained the advantage off a pair of Etan Chemerinski free throws with 15:52 to go, but once again, Curry had the answer, drilling a trey from the top of the key to put Harvard up by one, 35-34.
“I thought Brandyn Curry showed so much courage,” Amaker said. “He’s got a heart of a champion. He’s made big plays and big shots for us throughout his career.”