Harvard jumped out to a big lead on Saturday night, but an inability to adjust when Brown switched to a zone defense and the Bears' hot shooting forced double overtime. Sophomore Jonah Travis, above, scored just seven points, but his two emphatic dunks got the crowd going.
The victories just won’t come easily for the Harvard men’s basketball team. But no matter how difficult the Crimson continues to make things for itself, Harvard continues to win.
In a double-overtime thriller at Lavietes Pavilion, the Crimson (12-6, 4-0 Ivy) remained undefeated in Ancient Eight play by knocking off Brown, 89-82.
Just like its last two contests in its home arena, the triumph did not come without a great deal of nail biting for its fans, who witnessed Harvard blow a 22-point second-half advantage before eventually escaping with the victory.
“I wish we would’ve been able to hold the lead and not have all the drama associated with this, but [it was] certainly a sensational basketball game,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “We’re very fortunate and pleased to have won.”
After the Crimson went up, 63-41, with 12:58 to go, it looked well on its way to its first easy conference win of the season. But the Bears (8-10, 2-2) slowly rallied back from there, and Sean McGonagill hit a jumper at the buzzer to force overtime after Brown outscored Harvard, 28-6, down the stretch.
Co-captain Christian Webster’s left wing three-pointer put Harvard up three with 38 seconds remaining in the first overtime, but Brown’s Stephen Albrecht answered back with a long ball of his own 18 seconds later to tie the game at 78. Sophomore wing Wesley Saunders' reverse layup rimmed out at the overtime buzzer, and the teams went to a second set of extra time from there.
In the second overtime period, Saunders put the Crimson up six, 88-82, with an and-one layup, and the Bears could not rally back for the third time as Harvard held on for the win.
Freshman point guard Siyani Chambers posted his second career double-double in the victory, registering 17 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds. Saunders led the Crimson with 18 points, while Webster and junior co-captain Laurent Rivard both added 16.
“I gave our team so much praise in the locker room after the game to have the toughness, the poise, and the confidence after losing the lead like that,” Amaker said.
After Chambers’ 14 points led the Crimson to a 49-36 lead at the break—its most points scored in a first half this year—Harvard expanded its advantage to 22 at the beginning of the second. But it quickly witnessed its lead shrink to eight during a five-minute scoreless stretch midway through the half until Saunders finally ended the scoring drought with a steal and transition dunk at the 7:01 mark.
“It’s just a trend for us—in the second half, for some reason, we come out slow,” sophomore wing Wesley Saunders said. “I think it might be because our bench is on the other side of the court, so our defensive intensity might not be as [strong]. It’s something we need to work on.”
Brown continued to chip away at the advantage and got within five on a layup by Cedric Kuakumensah, who beat Rivard off an inbounds with 1:04 remaining.
“I think we got complacent,” Webster said. “I think our defense was lacking…. That’s been something that’s been happening the last few games and that’s something we’ve got to fix.”
The Crimson committed a shot clock violation on its next possession, and Kuakumensah hit two free throws at the other end.
Rivard, fouled after the ensuing inbounds, hit one of his two free throws, but McGonagill banked in a long three from the top of the key to cut the deficit to two, 69-67, with 13.1 seconds to go.