With his team down three and less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation, sophomore Corbin Miller watched as teammate Agunwa Okolie’s high-arcing trey soared through the air and ricocheted off the rim. Miller sunk down towards the baseline, positioning himself for the rebound.
Somehow, in traffic moments later, 6’2” Miller came up with the board. He found junior co-captain Siyani Chambers waiting, hands up, on the right wing, and Chambers showed no hesitation in pulling the trigger. The triple was good, knotting up the score, 44-all, and sending the Crimson and University of Vermont men’s basketball teams into extra time.
Then it happened again.
With 16 seconds left in overtime and Harvard down three once more, senior wing Wesley Saunders received a pass from Chambers, before sending the rock to Miller, who was waiting between the top of the key and the right wing. Miller forced up a contested, fade-away three-pointer that fell through the net as the sophomore was still falling backwards. 50-all. The teams were headed for another five minutes of play.
Finally, for the first time all night, Harvard was able to create some breathing room in double overtime. The Catamounts (4-4, 1-0 America East) would score only once in the last five-minute period, enabling the Crimson (6-1) to put the game away with a steady stream of layups and free throws.
It took two overtimes and two clutch triples from its backcourt, but when the final buzzer sounded, it was visiting Harvard that came out victorious, 64-52, Saturday night at Patrick Gymnasium in Burlington, Vt.
“We knew [tonight’s game] was going to be very challenging and very difficult,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “[I]t took a great deal of concentration, a great deal of composure, and I thought it took a great deal of confidence for us to finish this game.”
In a game in which neither team shot above 36 percent from the field or 64 percent from the charity stripe, it’s perhaps unsurprising that neither side led by more than three points for the entirety of the second half.
With both squads struggling to connect, each made basket gained greater significance. And after Vermont failed to score a single field goal between the 10:24 and 3:45 marks of the second half, its three consecutive layups within two minutes of play seemed, comparatively, like an offensive onslaught. With those six points, the Catamounts took a three-point lead with 1:46 left in regulation, setting up Chambers’s trey 40 seconds later.
“[Chambers] has a tremendous amount of belief, and I think he relished being in that situation, that moment where he had to do something for us at a critical time,” Amaker said. “And he certainly did that. We wouldn’t have asked for anything more than that—hitting a big three to tie it.”
But Vermont would have one more chance to steal the game before the buzzer rang, and turned to freshman Cam Ward to do so. With 36 seconds left on the clock, Ward sent up a high floater over co-captain Steve Moundou-Missi’s outstretched fingers. The shot clanked off the rim, and Miller once again came up with a timely board, sending the ball to Chambers who brought it up the floor. The point guard handed the rock to Saunders along the perimeter, who found Moundou-Missi open on the baseline. The big man caught the ball and put up the shot, drawing contact but no whistle. The shot failed to fall, and the game went into its first extra period.
Neither team managed to score a field goal in overtime until Vermont put in a layup with 2:07 to go. Saunders responded immediately, spinning down the left side of the lane and knocking down the bank shot to give Harvard the one-point lead, 47-46.
A Catamount three-pointer from Kurt Steidl and free throw from Trae Bell-Haynes, however, put the home team back in control, 50-47, with just 33 ticks to play.
But then Saunders found Miller for that fade-away, high-arcing triple to tie the game once more.
Bell-Haynes couldn’t respond to Miller’s trey, missing a layup on the next possession. As the teams then traded turnovers on the ensuing inbounds passes, five more minutes were added to the defensive stalemate.