PROVIDENCE, R.I.—It felt like Groundhog Day at the Pizzitola Sports complex on Friday.
The Crimson, which had trailed by as much as 15 in the opening frame, went into the locker room down, 41-30.
The double-digit deficit hearkened back to the 22-point halftime margin that Harvard eventually overcame in its first matchup against the Bears.
But the Crimson did not have the same feeling at the break as it did on Feb. 12.
“It wasn’t the same for me,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said.
Unlike the first meeting, when Brown’s hot first-half shooting came against tough pressure, the Crimson’s defense was soft for much of the opening period.
“We were pretty disappointed in ourselves,” junior co-captain Oliver McNally said. “Brown shot the ball so well, but part of that was due to our inability to stay in front of the basketball.”
Against Harvard’s sagging defense, the Bears shot 16-of-28 from the field and 7-of-14 from deep.
The Crimson, by comparison, was just 12-of-31 from the floor and 4-of-13 from three.
“It’s scary when we’re not playing as well as we feel like we should...to have a team get out on us like that, especially on the road,” Amaker said.
Still, the situation was not as dire for Harvard as when the two teams first met.
The Crimson recovered from its poor start and erased the deficit in the first eight minutes of the second half.
“Eleven is a lot better than 24 [sic] or whatever it was [last time],” McNally said.
Harvard outclassed Brown in the second half, outscoring the Bears 44-27 in the period, but the hosts remained competitive throughout the contest thanks in large part to the play of forward Tucker Halpern.
The big man shot lights out in the first half en route to scoring 15 points. Halpern did his damage on a couple of drives, including a baseline floater and a banked-in and-one, as well as from distance, as the forward hit three triples in the first half.
“He’s an inside-out threat,” Amaker said. “He’s got great size, he gets his shot off very quickly, and he got going.”
In the second half, Halpern was able to pick up where he left off.
After the Crimson pushed its lead to eight, the Brown forward responded with a three from the left corner.
A minute later, Halpern swished a deep trey from up top to cut the lead to three.
At the four-minute mark, Bears guard Sean McGonagill shoveled a pass back to Halpern on the right wing, where he knocked down his third three of the half to make the score 67-65.
Brown never got any closer to taking the lead.
Halpern finished the night as the high-scorer with 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting and 6-of-9 shooting from three.
“He was their go-to guy, and he led them all the way,” Amaker said.
ON THE REBOUND
With Harvard struggling to find some offense early in the second half, a few timely offensive boards helped jump-start the Crimson’s scoring effort.
On the first possession of the period, sophomore forward Kyle Casey missed a jumper, but junior co-captain Keith Wright corralled the rebound and converted an easy put-back.
The next time down the court sophomore forward Christian Webster chased down a long rebound off a missed three.
After resetting the offense, sophomore guard Brandyn Curry drove and got to the free throw line where he hit both shots.
“[Offensive rebounds] take the life and momentum out of another team, and we were able to get those few there,” Amaker said.
Harvard out-rebounded Brown in the second half, 21-12, and grabbed a total of 10 offensive boards on the night.
Two timely rebounds in the final minutes from Casey and Wright that helped to seal the win.
—Staff writer Timothy J. Walsh can be reached at email@example.com.