“Another typical night in the Ivy League,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said with a smile.
Less than a week after battling back from a 10-point deficit with 90 seconds remaining to grab an overtime victory over Dartmouth, the Crimson nearly turned in an epic collapse of its own.
Hosting Yale on Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion, Harvard saw its 13-point second-half lead cut to three with under a minute remaining.
But unlike Dartmouth, the Crimson managed to hold on in the final seconds, topping the Bulldogs, 67-64.
“This conference has always been that way,” Amaker said. “Hard-fought all the way.”
With the win, the Crimson improved to 3-0 in the Ivy League, leaving Harvard and Princeton the only two undefeated teams in the conference.
But the Crimson was only a few possessions away from suffering its first conference loss of the season.
With 19 seconds remaining, Yale’s Armani Cotton capitalized on a Siyani Chambers’ turnover, finishing a layup to pull the visitors within three.
The Crimson then inbounded the ball to sophomore Steve Moundou-Missi who was fouled and sent to the line with 18 seconds left. Moundou-Missi, who missed all four of his free-throw attempts earlier in the contest, stuck both shots to put Harvard back up by five.
Following a Michael Grace jump shot on the other end, Yale’s Matt Townsend pulled down an offensive rebound and was fouled going back up with six seconds remaining.
Townsend knocked down both free throws to cut Harvard’s lead back down to three.
Following Townsend’s second make, the Crimson set up in its press break. But before Harvard could successfully inbound the ball, co-captain Christian Webster was whistled for an offensive foul, returning the ball to the Bulldogs with six seconds remaining and a chance to even the score.
But on the ensuing inbounds play, the Bulldogs missed a wide-open Greg Kelley on the perimeter and Townsend missed a contested layup. Chambers came up with the ball and was sent to the line where he iced the game with two free throws.
In the win, sophomore wing Wesley Saunders recorded his first career double-double, posting a game-high 15 points and 11 assists.
“I think Wesley is the best all-around player in our league,” Amaker said. “I know I’m biased, but there’s nothing he can’t do. He handles the ball, he rebounds it, he’s big, he’s strong, he scores, and he’s our best perimeter defender. We rely on him so much that it’s amazing, and I’m so happy to see how he’s been able to come through for us in so many different categories.”