NEW YORK, N.Y.–The Harvard men’s basketball team just keeps on rolling.
A day after taking down Ivy foe Cornell without much trouble, the Crimson (20-4, 9-1 Ivy) finished off its New York sweep with a 61-42 dismantling of Columbia (14-10, 5-5) Saturday night at Levien Gymnasium, winning for the 13th time in 14 games.
It was a dominant performance on the defensive end by Harvard, which held the Lions to 30 points below their season average and their lowest point total in three seasons.
“I thought we had a complete effort,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “We had balance. I think our defense was outstanding...[for a] Saturday night game on the road, we’re very pleased.”
After the visitors went into the half up, 29-20, Columbia center Max Craig started the second with a layup off an inbound pass to cut the lead to seven. But Harvard then went on a 10-2 run to take control of the game and never looked back.
The Crimson pushed its lead to 11 when sophomore guard Brandyn Curry stole the ball and threw an outlet bounce pass to junior co-captain Oliver McNally, who finished with a running layup at the other end. Craig hit a layup over Harvard's other junior co-captain, center Keith Wright, to cut the lead to 33-24 on the Lions’ next possession, but sophomore Kyle Casey responded with a long jumper on the other end for the Crimson.
“We noticed pretty early that [their guards] weren’t helping a lot when Brandyn and I would drive,” McNally said. “That’s why you saw a lot of us either shooting jumpers or trying to get the ball to the rim. We just kind of took what the defense gave us.”
Wright hit two free throws on Harvard’s next possession, then followed a beautiful spin move around Columbia’s Zack Crimmins with a lefty layup to push the Crimson lead to 39-24.
The momentum began to swing when Lions guard Brian Barbour responded with a three, a steal, and an assist to teammate Asenso Ampim, who finished with a two-handed slam in transition to cut the Harvard lead to 10. But that would be the closest the Lions would get the rest of the way.
Coming out of a timeout, McNally responded by taking a kick-out from Wright, pump-faking a three, going under his defender and hitting a short floater to push the lead back to 12.
After the teams traded baskets for two minutes, Curry had a steal and hit freshman Laurent Rivard for a transition layup to push the Crimson lead to 47-31. Curry would split two defenders and beat another to the left on Harvard’s next possession to make it 49-33 with 8:05 to go.
Wright added to the Harvard lead with a layup and short jumper to push the advantage to 53-35, and the lead would get as big as 22 after a swooping layup by Rivard with 1:39 left in the game.
“That’s the beauty of our team,” Amaker said. “Our guys are so unselfish, it doesn’t matter who’s scoring as long as it’s our color jersey...it’s fun coaching that way.”
The Crimson started the contest with a 9-0 run after two Wright free throws, a Casey jumper, a McNally layup, and a Curry three from the right corner.
The Lions only had three points through the game’s first eight minutes, and a McNally up-and-under floater after a tough drive made it 11-3. Curry later extended the Harvard lead to 18-8 with a three from the top of the key.