The Harvard men’s basketball team withstood a late Cornell run on Friday night, hanging on for a 67-65 win in Ithaca, N.Y.
The Crimson, which led by 21 with 16:55 left and 15 with 4:21 to go, failed to score the rest of the way, and the Big Red came within a single shot of handing Harvard its first Ivy League setback of the season.
But Errick Peck’s three-point attempt at the buzzer bricked off the glass, and the Crimson held on for the two-point win.
“We did some wonderful things, and it’s really disappointing to see how we let that lead get away from us and had to battle right there to the end,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said.
Friday’s contest marked the Crimson’s fifth straight conference win by 10 points or fewer and the third straight in which Harvard nearly coughed up a sizeable lead.
With the win, the Crimson (13-7, 5-1 Ivy) remains atop the Ancient Eight standings, a half game ahead of Princeton (11-8, 4-1). Every other team has at least three league losses.
But Harvard did all it could in the final 4:21 to cede its position atop the conference standings.
Harvard shot 0 of 3 from the field, 0 of 1 from the free throw line, and turned it over twice down the stretch. Cornell shot four of six during the same stretch, closing out the contest on a 13-0 run.
“When the pressure turned up and the crowd got involved in it, we came unglued again,” Amaker said.
Following a Christian Webster three-pointer with 4:21 remaining, Peck got the run started for the Big Red with a pair of free throws. Freshman point guard Siyani Chambers missed a step-back jumper on the other end, and sophomore Jonah Travis was whistled for a foul going for the rebound, sending the Big Red back to the line.
Cornell’s Galal Cancer knocked down both free throws, and Amaker opted to take a timeout with 3:34 to play.
Facing intense Big Red pressure, sophomore Wesley Saunders coughed it up near midcourt, and Cornell’s Shonn Miller cashed in a breakaway dunk to pull the Big Red within 10 for the first time since the first half.
The Crimson got the ball to forward Steve Moundou-Missi on the other end, but the sophomore was rejected by Miller. Johnathan Gray collected the rebound and pushed it up the court, where he converted a layup to pull the Big Red within seven, 67-60, with 2:34 remaining.
Miller came up with another steal, this time taking the ball from junior co-captain Laurent Rivard, and Gray knocked down a triple from the left wing to make it a four-point game.
Coming out of a timeout, the Crimson put the ball in the hands of Saunders, but strong Cornell defense forced a miss with the shot clock expiring.