Coming off the excitement of a last-minute comeback win against Ivy League opponent Dartmouth last Saturday, the Harvard men’s basketball team faces two league rivals at home this weekend, hosting Yale on Friday and Brown the following evening. The Crimson (10-6, 2-0 Ivy) currently holds an early half game lead in the Ivy League race over Princeton, the only other undefeated team.
Last Saturday, Harvard struggled for much of the game against a Big Green team that owns the worst overall record in the conference. Yet, after being down 10 with a minute and a half to go, the Crimson tied up the game thanks to a string of threes by co-captain Christian Webster, several Dartmouth missed free throws, and a clutch lay-up from freshman Siyani Chambers. Harvard scored 20 points in overtime and held on to win by five.
“The most amazing comeback ever,” Webster said after the game. “I’m at a loss for words.”
The Crimson struggled from the field against the Big Green, especially from deep. While it finished the game with five makes from beyond the arc, three of them came in the final three minute of regulation. For the season, Harvard is 22nd in its division in field goal percentage, shooting around 48 percent. The team also shoots above 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Despite his squad’s slow start, Webster was named Ivy League Co-player of the week for the first time this season. Chambers continued to rack up awards, earning his fifth Ivy Rookie of the week, approaching the record of eight.
The Bulldogs (7-12, 1-1) also come into the contest following an overtime win. After losing the conference opener versus the Bears the previous week, Yale built an 11-point lead in its rematch game only to quickly lose momentum and face an extra period. It managed to outscore Brown by 11 in overtime, though, and won, 75-64.
Touted freshman big man Justin Sears has spearheaded the Bulldogs down low thus far this season. He averages 10.6 points and leads the team with 6.4 rebounds per game. At 6’8”, he will pose a tough match-up for a relatively small Crimson team, which ranks 311th in the NCAA in boards per game.
Conversely, the Bears (7-9, 1-1) are hoping to rebound from last weekend’s loss. Brown is a frontcourt-oriented team, led by senior Matt Sullivan, a tall guard who is also strong on the boards. On the season Sullivan averages 14.8 points per game to go along with 5.1 rebounds. Junior Sean McGonagill averages 14.6 and the guard pair accounts for 49 percent of their squad’s points.
The team also boasts two big men taller than 6’8” who post more than seven rebounds per contest. Sophomore Rafael Maia, in his first season of activity, has averaged a team high 7.9 boards, including a season high of 15.
To go along with the strong play of Webster and Chambers, the latter of whom leads the Ivy League with 6.1 assists per game, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker emphasized the importance of the sophomore class’s production.
“Our sophomore class is a key group for us,” said Amaker after the Dartmouth game. “Jonah [Travis], Steve [Mondou-Missi], Kenyatta [Smith], and Wesley [Saunders]. I think that’s the group that’s going to have the chance to have an impact on us as a team.”
Saunders has put up some of the strongest statistics so far this season for the Crimson, averaging 16.3 points per game and leading the team in rebounding. He tallied 20 points against Dartmouth, including 13 in the second half. Classmate Smith also helped out against the Big Green, grabbing six boards in just 11 minutes of play and preventing Dartmouth from several second chances opportunities.
“They were playing their butts off in every facet of the game,” said Webster. “The big guys were driving and getting off shots.”
—Staff writer Jacob W. Lynch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.