All 40 minutes were required to determine a winner in the Harvard men’s basketball team’s Friday night matchup against Yale at Lavietes Pavilion.
But when the final buzzer put an end to the back-and-forth game that featured 11 ties and 13 lead changes, the Crimson emerged victorious, 78-75.
Harvard (17-4, 6-1 Ivy) took its final lead of the contest with just over a minute to play. Following two free throws from Yale’s Austin Morgan that knotted the score at 70, the Crimson had possession with 97 seconds remaining. Harvard moved the ball to sophomore Christian Webster at the top of the key. Webster fed the ball to junior co-captain Keith Wright in the high post, and then cut to the basket. Wright fed Webster the ball, and the wing finished with a contested left-handed layup.
“I noticed when I passed it into Keith, their guards turned their heads,” said Webster, whose basket helped propel the Crimson to its 14th straight victory at Lavietes Pavilion, tying a program record for consecutive home wins. “I just thought if I could pass it in and got to the basket, I’d be open.”
On the other end, the Bulldogs swung the ball to Reggie Willhite, who drove to the basket and pulled up for a short jumper. Willhite’s attempt fell short, but Yale center Jeremiah Kreisberg collected the offensive rebound. Kreisberg’s put-back attempt was also off its mark, and Webster secured the defensive rebound.
With the shot clock still on and 37 seconds left on the game clock, the Bulldogs’ Porter Braswell sent Harvard point guard Brandyn Curry to the stripe with a foul near midcourt.
Curry sank both free throws, putting the Crimson up, 74-70.
Yale pushed the ball up the court quickly, and Morgan slashed to the basket, picking up a foul. Morgan knocked down both free throws to pull within two, and the Bulldogs immediately set up in their full-court press.
Harvard inbounded the ball to freshman Laurent Rivard, who was immediately trapped by two Yale defenders. But Rivard dribbled out of the double team, sent a pass up court to Curry, who fed Wright under the basket for a two-handed slam.
“They had the [possession] arrow; we thought they were going to go for a trap, steal, and a tie-up,” Amaker said. “I thought Laurent did a tremendous job of being strong on the catch, pivoting through the double-team, and splitting it…I thought he was really strong and tough with it.”
Out of a timeout, Yale’s Greg Mangano missed a contested three on the other end, and Rivard iced the game with two free throws.
“A gutsy win by our team,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “We did a lot of things late to figure out how to come through.”
The Crimson was led once again by its frontcourt duo of Wright and sophomore Kyle Casey, who combined for 35 points on 16-of-26 shooting.
Casey matched his season-high with 18 points, which came off a combination of post moves and mid-range jumpers. The forward notched 11 of his points in the first half, two of which came on a ferocious two-handed slam off a behind-the-back dribble
“I jabbed right, and I went left, and [Kreisberg] cut me off really quick,” Casey said. “It was just kind of instinctive to go behind my back, and I looked up and the rim was right there, so I just tried to tear it off.”