But that was as close as Harvard was going to come to taking the lead on Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion, as the Bears (18-9, 10-3 Ivy) claimed their 18th victory of the season—a school record for wins in a campaign—in a 78-62 win over the Crimson (8-21, 3-10).
“Brown was just able to play consistent for a longer period of time than we were,” sophomore guard Jeremy Lin said. “We had some great runs and we had some bad periods.”
After a few key Crimson turnovers, the Bears jumped ahead by double digits just five minutes into the game. Brown senior Damon Huffman and freshman Peter Sullivan combined for seven three-pointers, leading a charge of lights-out Bear shooters—the squad finished with a 60 percent field goal percentage for the game, including 53 percent from behind the arc.
The Crimson was able to cut the Brown lead to five with a three-pointer from sophomore Alek Blankenau before the first buzzer rang, but halftime seemed to recharge the Bears, who jumped ahead by double digits again almost immediately after the break.
Harvard played with a much deeper lineup than usual, as nine players saw 10 or more minutes.
Captain Brad Unger ran into foul trouble early and junior Drew Housman saw fewer minutes because of some nagging knee pains, opening the door for players like Blankenau and junior Cem Dinc to see the ball more than usual. They both became key contributors in the surge that nearly earned a Crimson lead deep into the second half. Dinc knocked in both of his field goal attempts and Blankenau sank two shots from downtown.
“We felt it was the kind of game where we could use a lot of bodies,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said of the reserves. “We could keep people fresh, especially when we got down—we had to play a little deeper to try to get back in the game.”
One of the things that kept the Crimson down the entire game was its lack of free-throw opportunities. Brown was only called for 13 total fouls, and Harvard players were able to get to the charity stripe just 10 times, sinking six of those shots.
In a game where the opposing team was shooting so well, Harvard needed a boost to get past its sub-50 field goal percentage, and that force never came through.
Twice the Crimson got within two points—once with Harris’ put-back layup, and once with a pair of free throws by junior Andrew Pusar. Neither was able to spark a huge run, however, and Brown responded to every Harvard basket with two or three more.
The Bears went on a 21-6 run after the Crimson cut the lead, and the game never got close again. Huffman and Sullivan contributed the bulk of the points during that run, and before the game was over, Brown had seized an 18-point cushion.
“We’re learning how to put together longer periods of solid play,” Lin said. “Defense has pretty much been our weakness all year.”
While the Crimson was clearly over-matched in perimeter play by the hot-shooting Bears, Harvard was able to outscore Brown in the paint and grab five more rebounds as a team.
Harris was a huge factor down low, leading the Crimson with 16 points and seven rebounds—but perhaps even more impressive were his three dominant blocks.
Lin had an all-around solid game with nine points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. Pusar chipped in 12 points, sinking four of his seven field goal attempts, but only he and Harris saw double digits in scoring.
It was the Crimson’s next to last game before its matchup with Yale on Saturday, and its loss on Friday only made it more important to win the following night.
“There’s no better way to close out the year then against Yale on senior night,” Harris said. “Everyone on our team is licking their chops to get those guys.”
—Staff writer Paul T. Hedrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.