HANOVER, N.H.—Despite leading a team that occupied the bottom spot in the Ivy standings in 2011-12 by as many as 14 points in the first half, the Harvard men’s basketball team gave up its advantage just before the break on Saturday, entering the locker room down one, 43-42.
After a back-and-forth second period, the defending Ancient Eight champions were able to erase the small deficit and pull away, 75-65, but—like so many contests at Leede Arena—it didn’t come easy. The second half featured six ties and five lead changes, with neither team going ahead by more than five until Harvard (9-5, 1-0 Ivy) scored eight of the last 10 to claim the final, 10-point advantage.
“We hit a stretch where we didn’t play up to our standards,” said freshman point guard Siyani Chambers, who scored a game-high 22 points. “We relaxed, didn’t play good defense, [and] we didn’t get any rebounds…. Other than that stretch, I think we played pretty well. But we can’t have those stretches anymore.”
Although the Crimson has topped the Big Green (3-11, 0-1) in its last seven contests and holds a 9-2 record against Dartmouth with coach Tommy Amaker at the helm, Harvard has traditionally struggled in contests played in Hanover.
The Crimson has held the advantage in both locations under Amaker, but the average Harvard margin of victory at home is 14.2 points compared to 4.8 at Leede Arena. Last year, although the Crimson eventually claimed a 54-38 victory, Dartmouth got within five points as late as 13:35 in the second half of the road game. In 2010, Harvard escaped Hanover with a four-point win after trouncing the Big Green by 29 in their matchup at Lavietes Pavilion.
“For whatever reason, many Harvard teams have never fared very well coming here to play,” Amaker said. “It’s always been games like this where you’re trying to figure it out, or games like this where you don’t come out with a victory.”
With 1:36 to play in Saturday’s contest, forward Steve Moundou-Missi slammed the ball through the basket, giving his team an eight-point lead and adding an effective exclamation point to a career night. The sophomore scored a season-high 15 points on seven-of-nine shooting.
“I thought his play and his minutes were tremendous for us to give us the boost that he did,” Amaker said.
After entering the contest with 15:26 left to play in the opening frame, Moundou-Missi quickly made an impact, finishing his first layup of the night just 15 seconds later off a pass from co-captain Christian Webster. Moundou-Missi scored nine of his team’s next 15 points, amassing 11 in a stretch on the court that totaled just over five minutes.
Aside from a single made free throw to capitalize on an and-one opportunity midway through the first half, Moundou-Missi scored all of his points in the paint, including three dunks over the course of the night.
“We needed his energy around the rim to finish the basketball [and] to defensive rebound for us,” Amaker said. “I thought his minutes and his presence were outstanding.”
The sophomore contributed a game-high six rebounds—two on offense—in 24 minutes of action. Before Saturday’s matchup, Moundou-Missi averaged just under 16 minutes per game on the season.
After a first half laden with defensive struggles on both ends of the court, Dartmouth and Harvard each made successful adjustments on defense for the second period.