This time, there was no need for another dramatic comeback for the Harvard men’s basketball team. Instead, the focus was on staving one off.
Six days after storming back from down 10 with 94 seconds to go to tie and eventually beat Dartmouth in overtime, Harvard found itself on the opposite end of a similar situation Friday night against Yale.
Up seven with 50 seconds remaining, the Crimson turned it over three times before the final buzzer, allowing the Bulldogs to make a late run.
With six seconds left in the contest, co-captain Christian Webster was called for an off-ball foul as Harvard attempted to make an inbounds pass, giving Yale possession with the chance to tie. But Matt Townsend passed up a wide-open Greg Kelley behind the arc and instead chose to attempt a layup, which he missed.
“I understand the strategy to try to get a quick two,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “I wouldn’t say that was a bad strategy [Friday night].”
After Harvard grabbed the rebound, freshman point guard Siyani Chambers calmly sunk his ensuing two free throws, and Harvard hung on for a 67-64 win.
But it was not one that came without suspense, continuing what has become a heart wrenching trend for the Crimson. Six of Harvard’s last nine games have been decided by seven points or fewer.
“We weren’t very disciplined, I thought, in the second half defensively, and you give a lot of credit to Yale,” Amaker said. “Obviously we did what we needed to do to finish [the game] with a W, but certainly we need to play better in stretches to give us the chance to not give up the kind of lead we had.”
MARCH OF DIMES
All season long, sophomore wing Wesley Saunders has scored consistently and often prodigiously, leading the conference with 16.2 points per game.
On Friday night, Saunders neared that average by pouring in 15 points. But the sophomore also did something to which he was not so accustomed—rack up assists.
Saunders entered the contest averaging 3.5 helpers per contest, with a season high of six. But against the Bulldogs, the wing was able to find the open man time and time again, registering a career-high 11 assists.
“I [knew] I had a lot, [but] I didn’t know I had 11,” Saunders said. “I just [went] out there and showed everybody I could pass the ball.”
Combined with his point total, that number gave Saunders his first collegiate double-double.
“The 11 assists is incredible,” Amaker said. “I think Wesley is the best all-around player in our league.... There’s nothing he can’t do. He handles the ball, he rebounds it, he’s big, he’s strong, he scores, and he’s our best perimeter defender. We rely on him so much that it’s amazing and I’m so happy to see that he’s been able to come through for us in so many different [statistical] categories.”