NOTEBOOK: Chambers Returns to Form
With 21 seconds on the clock on Saturday night, freshman point guard Siyani Chambers closed the door on his first Ivy League season, clinching his first conference title and NCAA tournament berth.
After being fouled by Cornell guard Nolan Cressler, Chambers went to the line to shoot two—missing the first and making the second—and ensuring the Harvard men’s basketball team a 65-56 win over the Big Red (13-18, 5-9 Ivy) at Lavietes Pavilion in its final regular season game.
Forty-five minutes later, the Crimson (19-9, 11-3) learned that rival Princeton had fallen to Brown, handing the Crimson its second consecutive outright title.
Emerging amidst uncertainty and doubt after the withdrawals of Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry at the beginning of the season, Chambers burst onto the scene with nine points in 36 minutes in the season opener against MIT. The freshman quickly solidified his spot in the lineup from the get-go, starting all 28 games and averaging 37.8 minutes per game.
But entering Ivy League play—where teams face each other twice and scouting and matchups become more critical—Chambers struggled at times to maintain his efficiency and was held to five points both times out against Penn.
“It was a compliment to him when people game-planned against him,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “I told him that against Penn because their game plan was to take them out of the game.”
Chambers started the season as one of the hottest three-point shooters on the team, most notably going five for five from beyond the arc against St. Mary’s on Dec. 31, but in his last eight games, the freshman went four for 17 from deep.
But on Saturday Chambers turned it around. He put up 16 points for the second night in a row in an efficient and diverse offensive showing, going six for nine from the field and three for four from deep.
After missing his first three-point shot just over 30 seconds into the game, Chambers sunk one to open the second half and wouldn’t miss again, knocking down two more in the next eight minutes.
“I’ve never worried about his confidence,” Amaker said. “He’s going to have some tough stretches or games, but he knows how much we believe in him.”
DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’
Coming into the season with so many question marks, few would have predicted that the Crimson would finish the season in such fashion.
Princeton was picked to take the conference by a near unanimous vote in the preseason poll, finishing with 13 first-place votes points to Harvard’s two behind established big-name player Ian Hummer.
But Amaker had a different idea.
The Crimson emerged from non-conference play with a winning record, playing stretches of competitive basketball against top teams like Memphis and Connecticut. Despite a few games that were too close comfort against Ancient Eight opponents, Harvard came out on top after splitting the series with Princeton and remaining undefeated at home.