With less than two minutes to go in regulation, it was safe to say that Christian Webster was not having the game of his life.
The senior guard was a lackluster one for six from long range that afternoon, and the Crimson had found itself facing a double-digit deficit against Dartmouth, a squad that Harvard had a much easier time handling just two weeks ago in a 75-65 victory.
But the tide turned just when it seemed that all hope was lost. Down by 10, Webster rolled off a series off three long-range buckets in the final minutes of regulation to spur a late comeback victory for the Crimson.
“I haven’t been a part of something like that since the Brown game a couple of years ago,” the co-captain said, referencing Harvard’s comeback from a 22-point halftime deficit in the 2010-2011 season. “It was just ridiculous. I’m at a loss for words.”
The Crimson had trailed Dartmouth for all but the first minute of play, as the team quickly found itself down 12-4.
“They were playing their best ball for every facet of the game,” Webster said. “They were beating us on the backboard, their big guys were driving, getting easy shots [off]. Our shots weren’t falling, obviously. We were just missing shots, and they were making shots.”
A poor shooting performance from some of its key players left Harvard down 29-20 at the end of the first half. The start of the second seemed no different, as the Crimson failed to keep pace with its opponent and fell behind by as many as 13.
Webster himself came up empty-handed for most of regulation. An early three-point jumper followed by a free throw in the eighth minute of play were Webster’s only points of the contest, and he was scoreless the rest of the game heading into the final minutes of play.
When the team needed its captain most, Webster stepped up.
Since being named co-captain earlier this season, the senior has proven integral to the Crimson’s success thus far. Webster has been as much a leader on the court as he has been off it, averaging 32 minutes of playing time and over eight points per contest.
This occasion was no different, as the Crimson saw its co-captain step up and lead the comeback charge. Following a turnover and a Dartmouth timeout, Webster hit his first trey off an assist by freshman Siyani Chambers, cutting the Crimson’s deficit to seven with 1:33 to go.
“Like a lot of shooters and scorers, if they make one, all of the sudden they’re calm, they’re confident,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “That’s exactly what happened.”
But despite two free throws by Laurent Rivard and a layup by Chambers, the Crimson still sat six points down with 0:47 to go. Webster stepped up again and hit another three-point jumper off an assist by sophomore Wesley Saunders with 0:41 left, bringing Harvard within a single possession of tying the game.
A pair of Big Green free throws seemingly pulled Dartmouth out of reach. That did not last long, though. Webster’s third bucket from downtown, this time with 0:32 to go, brought the Crimson within two and the packed Lavieties’ crowd to its feet.
“Christian’s shots were amazing, for him to hit those threes,” Amaker said. “It was obvious that we did some incredible things down the stretch there to gain momentum, the confidence to push through, and to close.”
The co-captain’s three buckets sparked Harvard’s comeback run, and a layup by Chambers tied the game in regulation. After the break, the Crimson hit the ground running, pulling away by as many as seven before finally closing with an 82-77 victory.
“It was impressive, how they dug it out,” Amaker said.
The win helped Harvard preserve its perfect 2-0 start to conference play. If not for Harvard's clutch, crunch-time play, Dartmouth would have set a poor precedent for visiting Ancient Eight opponents.
“We had to do things right, and things that we practiced,” Amaker said. “And our kids believed in it. We were confident that we would pull through. I’m very pleased for our team, and [it was] a sensational win for our program.”
—Staff writer Brenna R. Nelsen can be reached at email@example.com.