With just over one minute to play in the Harvard men’s basketball team’s contest against Princeton, sophomore forward Steve Moundou-Missi corralled from freshman Siyani Chambers and slammed the ball home. And though the sizable crowd at Lavietes Pavilion got to its feet on the play, the dunk—the sophomore’s second of the night—served largely as an exclamation point, pushing his team’s lead to a comfortable 13 points.
On the penultimate possession of the game, Princeton guard TJ Bray got to the line after collecting his own rebound. But his 1-of-2 effort from the stripe was for naught—the game was already over.
The Crimson (15-7, 7-1 Ivy) worked the ball down the court one last time as the clock expired. And with that, Harvard had outlasted its biggest Ivy competition, 69-57, in front of a packed crowd on Saturday evening.
“I think we had a hunger here [Saturday] that really started for us [Friday against Penn],” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “I was anxious to see how we could turn it back around and continue that.”
Just 30 seconds into the second half, sophomore Kenyatta Smith converted a layup to stretch his team’s slim lead to six. Though Princeton (12-9, 5-2) held as much as a four-point advantage in a first half that featured 12 lead changes, that was as close as the Tigers would come for the remainder of the game.
Just 8:06 later, a Crimson squad that trailed the Tigers for a solid portion of the first half was up 11 after sophomore Wesley Saunders finished an and-one opportunity.
After Princeton threatened to come back, shrinking the scoring gap to six points off two Denton Koon free throws and a three-point play from Will Barrett, Smith converted a shot from inside with 8:52 to play. One block and 22 seconds later, Smith found his way to the free-throw line, where his two made shots boosted his team’s lead to 10.
From there, the game returned to the back-and-forth nature of the first half once again. But the Crimson was able to maintain its comfortable advantage.
After 20 minutes of play, the Crimson held a slim 32-28 advantage over the only other Ancient Eight team that entered the weekend with a single tally in the loss column.
“We liked what we were doing in the first half and we weren’t trying to change [in the second half],” Amaker said. “We needed to do a better job defending the three-point line. They had a couple in the first half and we were not happy with the ones they got. I thought we did that in a terrific way.”
Although the Tigers led by as many as four points with 11:25 remaining in the half, everything was all tied up with 2:31 to go after freshman point guard Siyani Chambers converted a jumper.
With just under two minutes to play in the opening frame, Saunders stole the ball and pushed it up the court. And although classmate Steve Moundou-Missi—who tallied a team-high eight points on the half, including a monster dunk over Princeton forward Ian Hummer with with 7:56 to go—missed his attempt from midrange, the Crimson found itself with the ball once again in the ensuing scramble.
After another Harvard miss—this time from Saunders—Chambers collected the rebound and found co-captain Laurent Rivard, who knocked down a wide-open three point attempt to secure his first points of the game and put his team up, 29-26.
And although Princeton’s Hans Brase dunked the ball on the other end, Harvard was able to hold onto its lead.
In the final four seconds of the period, Rivard attempted two more threes. Princeton forward Ian Hummer blocked the first, but Rivard collected the rebound and finished his third look from deep at the buzzer.
Smith and Moundou-Missi led the Crimson with 14 points, while Hummer paced the Tigers with a game-high 18.
“I’m a sixth man,” Moundou-Missi said. “I come off the bench looking to rebound the ball and put my team in a good position to win the game.”
With the victory, Harvard remains atop the Ivy standings as the lone Ancient Eight squad with just one loss.
“Our league is very tough and challenging and it has been for my tenure at Harvard, and I have said that every time,” Amaker said. “I’m glad our league is recognized as such.”
—Staff writer Catherine E. Coppinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @catcopp.