In the last Ivy League game of their careers, Harvard men’s basketball co-captain Laurent Rivard and Brown tri-captain Sean McGonagill reminded their squads why they recruited them all those years ago.
With 40 seconds remaining in Saturday night’s overtime contest, Crimson sophomore point guard Siyani Chambers held the ball at midcourt, dribbling out the shot clock. His team had a two-point lead, with NCAA Tournament seeding on the line.
The shot clock hit six as Chambers found a streaking Rivard near the top of the key. The senior wasted no time, hitting a dagger from behind the arc to make it a two-possession game, 94-89. The basket all-but sealed the victory, and only a few possessions later, Harvard (26-4, 13-1 Ivy) walked out of the Pizzitola Sports Center with the 98-93 win over the Bears (15-13, 7-7).
“I thought Laurent’s three…was a big one,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “It was a designed play for him, and it was awesome to see him step forward and just bury that shot.”
Rivard credited junior forward Steve Moundou-Missi’s off-ball screen as key in getting the defender off his back and enabling him to hit the open shot.
“I thought [my defender] would be trailing me a little more,” Rivard said. “I was focused on just getting it up. I knew he wasn’t right on me, so I knew it would be a good shot.”
The three was Rivard’s fourth on a night in which he shot 53 percent from the field, going 4-of-8 from deep. Perhaps more importantly for Rivard, his final bucket of the game moved him past former Princeton guard Brian Earl for second all-time in the Ancient Eight in made three-pointers with 282.
Rivard’s performance from deep spanned the duration of the game, as an Agent Zero three began the evening’s festivities. Thirty seconds into the contest, Rivard ran a give-and-go with junior wing Wesley Saunders, and the end result was a 3-0 lead for the visiting squad.
McGonagill, however, was not to be outdone.
With 17 seconds to go in the extra period, Brown’s leading scorer drilled a trey of his own, bringing his team back within two.
The basket was McGonagill’s fifth three and 26th point of the night, marking the fifth time this season that he tallied at least five three-pointers in a single game.
One day after shooting 75 percent from the field at Yale, Moundou-Missi was at it again. The forward shot 6-of-10 from the floor and 9-of-12 from the line en route to a team-high 21 points on Saturday night.
Just as Rivard’s hot shooting from deep spanned the game, so too did Moundou-Missi dominate inside all night. With just over a minute gone by in the first half, Saunders found his classmate on the low box. Moundou-Missi laid the ball into the hoop and drew contact, earning a three-point play the old fashioned way.
Nearly two hours later, a similar set gave Harvard the lead once more.
Following a missed three from Brown freshman forward Leland King, forward Kyle Casey corralled the rebound and headed up the court. The senior found Moundou-Missi in the middle of the paint, who promptly turned around and hit the baby jumper, giving Harvard a two-point advantage with 3:39 left in overtime.
From that moment on, the Bears did not come within two points, and the Crimson held out for its final league victory of the year.
After Harvard clinched an invitation to the NCAA Tournament with Friday’s win, the only implications for Saturday night’s game centered on seeding and momentum.
Last season, the Crimson entered the Big Dance on a two-game winning streak, defeating Columbia and Cornell at home in the final weekend of regular season play. The rest is familiar—Harvard upset the University of New Mexico in the second round of the Tournament, 68-62, earning its first March Madness win in program history.
This year, however, Harvard will be riding an even greater run heading into the Tourney.
The Crimson is currently on an eight-game winning streak, and completed its best-ever record in Ivy play at 13-1.
“We definitely have a good thing going [in terms of] momentum right now, but we got to get to the Tournament and play that first game like any other game,” Rivard said. “[We] just [have to] prepare for that game like we’ve been doing all season, and hopefully build momentum [from there]."
While Harvard knows that it will be playing postseason ball, who the squad will match up with remains a mystery until Selection Sunday on March 16th.
“We’re fortunate to know we’re going to be in the postseason, [but] you never know what style you’re going to have to go against,” Amaker said. “[But] we’ve shown that we can line them up and play a lot of different ways, and not only play but be successful.”
—Staff writer Juliet Spies-Gans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twiiter @JulietSpiesGans.