The seniors on the Harvard men’s basketball team (24-4, 11-1 Ivy) took to the floor at Lavietes Pavilion for the last time Saturday night, but they asserted their ownership of the gym before they left.
Although Senior Night came Friday against Cornell, Saturday’s game against Columbia (18-11, 7-5) marked the last home game for five Harvard players.
They went out with a bang.
For co-captain Laurent Rivard, it was more of a swoosh. Rivard led all scorers with 21 points, going 6-of-8 from three-point range in his second-highest point total of the year.
At one point, Rivard connected on five threes in a row. And, in his final shot at Lavietes, the Harvard co-captain was fouled as he hit from long range, converting the four-point play just moments later.
“I was just happy, loving it,” Rivard said. “I knew it was my last half of basketball [at Lavietes]. Brandyn called that play and I knew it was set up for me to hit a shot. I was ready and he made a great pass.”
Senior Kyle Casey proved he could electrify the crowd as well. In the opening minutes of the game, the senior took a pass from junior Wesley Saunders, planted two feet in the paint, and propelled himself high into the air to throw down a slam that brought the crowd to its feet.
Casey added two more dunks on the night, although neither was as worthy of a SportsCenter top-10 nomination as the first. His efficient 10 points (on seven shots) and four rebounds helped the Crimson control the paint against the lengthy Lions throughout the night.
It wasn’t just Rivard and Casey who made big plays, though. Although co-captain Brandyn Curry followed up his 12-point performance against the Big Red with just five points Saturday night, his three-pointer midway through the second half capped a 16-4 Crimson run that essentially put the game out of reach.
Senior Dee Giger—who saw the floor for just two minutes Saturday—caused the Crimson bench to jump up and down by hitting a deep three late in the closing moments of the game. The final senior, Tom Hamel, was out for the game with injury.
“[The seniors] have been sensational for us,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “They have believed and have trusted, and they really love the system and style that we have. I think that they have bought into that wholeheartedly, and you see that in how they play.”
STRONG OUT OF THE GATES
Last time out against the Lions, it would take two overtime periods for Harvard to prevail. On Saturday night, the Crimson demonstrated early on this game would be different.
Harvard rode efficient offense and assertive defense to seize a commanding lead in the opening minutes of the contest. Junior Steve Moundou-Missi contributed eight of the Crimson’s initial 12 points as the Crimson took a 17-2 advantage after just seven minutes of play.
“We just came out ready,” Saunders said. “I think we came out with a lot of energy. It was a big game for us and we came out like it.”
The Lions did not get on the board until nearly five minutes had elapsed in the half. The margin increased to 20 just five minutes thereafter.
Harvard’s active defensive presence forced the Lions to settle for bad shots and led to fast break opportunities on the offensive end. After just ten minutes of play, Columbia had committed eight turnovers to the Crimson’s three.
Harvard shot 55 percent from the field in the first half, led by 10 points from Moundou-Missi. The Crimson also benefited from 15-of-17 shooting at the free throw line in the first 20 minutes.
ROSENBERG ON THE ROPES
When Harvard and Columbia last met two weekends ago in New York, junior Alex Rosenberg dropped 34 points and nearly walked off with a game-winning jumper. Friday night against Dartmouth, the junior contributed 31 points and missed just one shot.
What answer did Harvard have for Rosenberg? Enter Kyle Casey.
The senior marked Rosenberg for the majority of the first half and made him uncomfortable from the outset. Rosenberg missed his first four shots and often settled for three-point attempts instead of taking Casey to the basket.
At the end of the night, Rosenberg had ten points on just 1-of-7 shooting – his lowest field goal total on the year in games where he played at least 20 minutes.
“With Kyle being one of our veteran guys, that was the matchup we thought was best,” Amaker said. “He wanted that challenge… but it wasn’t going to be one person or one guy. We had to do that as a team.”
—Staff writer David Steinbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.