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Crimson Squeaks Out Critical League Victory

Sophomore Brandyn Curry, who has played all 22 games this year, is a key component of the team looking for its first ever tournament berth.
Sophomore Brandyn Curry, who has played all 22 games this year, is a key component of the team looking for its first ever tournament berth.
By Martin Kessler, Crimson Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA, Pa.—It took 50 minutes and two overtimes, but the Harvard men’s basketball team emerged from the Palestra on Saturday night with a victory.

After squandering an 18-point second-half lead, the Crimson (16-4, 5-1 Ivy) battled back from a deficit in the second overtime period to pull out a gutsy 83-82 win against Penn (9-9, 3-1).

Junior co-captain Oliver McNally delivered the victory, sinking a baseline floater to give Harvard the one-point advantage with 11 seconds on the clock.

“I just saw a smaller guy on me,” McNally said. “I tried to take it strong and tried to get to the rim.”

On their final possession, the Quakers put the ball in the hands of their top scorer, junior Zack Rosen. But Rosen’s last-second attempt was swatted away by sophomore Kyle Casey, securing the Harvard victory.

“Anytime you can come and win a basketball game like this against an outstanding team, in a tremendous environment on our second night on the road, it’s a tremendous victory for us,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said.

While Rosen’s final attempt was off its mark, the Ivy League’s reigning scoring champion had more success at the conclusion of the first extra period, sinking a floater at the buzzer to even the score and extend the contest.

Penn rode the momentum into the second overtime, grabbing its first lead 46 minutes into the game off a baseline layup from Jack Eggleston. The senior scored 23 points on the night.

Moments later, Quaker Conor Turley got to the line, hitting one of two attempts.

Sophomore Christian Webster cut into the Quakers’ lead, sinking a pair of free throws, but Penn built its lead back up to three, 82-79, thanks to a backdoor layup from Eggleston.

Two minutes away from suffering its second conference loss in as many days, the Crimson received a clutch play from Casey. The forward received the ball under the basket and powered to the hoop, picking up a foul. Casey drilled both attempts to pull Harvard within one.

The Quakers managed to beat the Crimson’s press, but sophomore Brandyn Curry forced a jump ball on the other end to return possession to Harvard.

With less than a minute on the clock, Webster was fouled driving to the basket and went to the line with a chance to regain the lead for Harvard. But Webster—an 88.5-percent shooter from the stripe—missed both attempts.

The Quakers pulled down the rebound and let the clock run down to under 25 seconds. With 21 on the clock, Penn swung the ball to Eggleston in the corner. But Eggleston missed the deep jumper, and Curry pulled down the long rebound. With the shot clock off, Curry pushed the ball up the court and found McNally in the corner.

McNally gave an upfake and then dribbled to the cup, finishing with a floater that sailed through the net. The floater—just McNally’s second basket on the night—proved to be the game-winner.

But judging by the way the game began, few could have predicted that it would take two overtimes to determine the outcome.

Thanks to 11 first-half points from Wright and Penn’s 1-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc, the Crimson went into halftime boasting a 10-point lead. And coming out of the break, Harvard extended its advantage to as many as 18.

Fueled by a pair of Wright layups and a Webster trey, Harvard opened the half on a 12-5 run to grab the 47-29 advantage with 15:43 left in regulation.

But on the backs of Eggleston and Rosen, Penn fought its way back into the game. The duo combined for 16 of the Quakers’ final 23 points in regulation, leading the team on a 23-10 run over the final 8:22 of the second half to force overtime. “I thought that they showed a great deal of determination and character and fight,” Amaker said. “They inched their way back in it.”

Tyler Bernardini cut Harvard’s lead to single digits off a pair of free throws, and Eggleston followed with a triple from the right corner to make it 56-51 with 5:53 remaining.

A Webster three-pointer and a Curry free throw put the Crimson back up by nine, but Eggleston answered with another three. Penn freshman Miles Cartwright scored a layup, and Rosen drilled a triple off the dribble to bring the Quakers within one.

Casey answered with a pair of free throws, but a three from Bernardini with 45 ticks on the clock evened the score for the first time since the opening tap. Coming out of a timeout, Curry found Casey open on the left baseline. Casey sank the jumper with 19 seconds left, putting the visitor up by a deuce.

On the other end, Rosen attacked the basket, drawing a foul on Curry with 11 seconds to go. Rosen sank both attempts, knotting the score at 64.

On the final possession of regulation, Harvard put the ball in the hands of freshman sharpshooter Laurent Rivard, but Rivard’s mid-range attempt with one second left was off its mark.

Curry swooped in for the offensive rebound and was fouled on a last-second put-back attempt. But after huddling at midcourt, the referees ruled that Curry’s final attempt came after the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.

In the first overtime, the Crimson built a five-point lead with 1:01 to play, but, once again, the Quakers fought back. Rosen scored eight points in the final minute of the first overtime, leading Penn on a late 8-3 run to put another five minutes on the clock.

But in the second overtime, Harvard managed to squeak out the one-point win, sending the squad back to Cambridge on a high note.

—Staff writer Martin Kessler can be reached at

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