HANOVER, N.H.—It would take 45 minutes—not 40—for Harvard coach Tommy Amaker to earn his 200th career win for the Crimson on Saturday night in a road contest against Dartmouth.
Despite holding a commanding 41-24 lead at the 12-minute mark of the second frame, Harvard (7-10, 2-0 Ivy League) went stone-cold for the ensuing five minute stretch and saw the hosts (4-11, 0-2) turn a previously one-sided game into a nailbiter. The Big Green scored 10 unanswered points in that span and continued a dominant 22-5 run to even the game with 2:03 remaining.
The Crimson, however, was able to temper the raucous Hanover crowd to finish regulation. Sophomore forward Seth Towns, who matched a career-high with 26 points during the game, was fouled driving to the basket with just 2.6 seconds left to play and his team trailing by two. Unfazed by the clamorous roar of the Dartmouth fan base, Towns knocked down both shots to force overtime.
“I shoot free throws every day,” Towns said. “I went to the line and said this was no different from any other free throw I shoot. That is always my mentality.”
In extra time, Harvard regained its shooting stroke and appeared re-energized on the defensive end. Critical interior field goals by sophomore forward Chris Lewis and triples from Towns and classmate Justin Bassey were sufficient to close out a 62-57 final game score. Bassey tallied a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while also snatching four steals.
“We talk about three things in terms of the C words for us: concentration, composure, and confidence,” Amaker said. “We got into a drought there and couldn’t score but we needed to maintain composure and at the end of it, you got to have confidence to finish it. I thought we did those two things incredibly well.”
The Crimson limited the Big Green to just 18 points in the first half while forcing nine turnovers. Much like Harvard’s second half scoring drought, Dartmouth had its own extended stretch of blankness in the first frame. For a eight-minute stretch beginning with 12 minutes to play, the Big Green missed six consecutive field goals and two free throws, and consistently had difficulty bringing the ball into the painted area.
Harvard’s impressive first half defense dipped slightly in the final minutes of the first frame and the Big Green appeared rebooted after a powerful two-handed slam by freshman forward Chris Knight at the four-minute mark. From there, Dartmouth strung together two consecutive baskets in the paint and then denied two straight shot attempts on the other end. The Big Green still trailed 27-18 at the half, but those eight points in the final four minutes were enough to bring the Dartmouth crowd to its feet leading up to intermission.
“Give them a whole lot of credit for regrouping,” Amaker said. “I thought the shot at the end of the half was a big momentum shot for them…The game is 40 minutes. I was just pleased and proud of our kids for making the necessary plays to gut out a win on the road.”
Both teams appeared sluggish coming out of the locker rooms, combining for just five points in the first four minutes of play. The next four minutes, however, was all Seth Towns. Until the Big Green’s massive run starting at the 12-minute mark, the Crimson’s high point man on the evening demonstrated his finesse from a variety of spots on the court, including a step-back three, crossover deuce, and a drive-in to the basket.
Another player who played a critical role in the Harvard victory was sophomore forward Henry Welsh, who logged six points, six rebounds, and two blocks in a season-high 16 minutes of action. With Lewis in foul trouble, Amaker turned to Welsh in the final few minutes of play. Beyond the numbers, Welsh also created important opportunities for his teammates through setting screens and commanding the paint on the defensive end.
“I thought Henry was tremendous,” Amaker said. “I don’t think we were able to come away with this victory without his solid, savvy play…He is so unselfish and certainly played a big role for us this evening for how he came in and gave us moments on the glass [including] offensive rebounds, just keeping the ball alive.”
The victory on Saturday moved the Crimson to 2-0 in overtime games. While sophomore point guard Bryce Aiken—who was inactive on Saturday with a knee injury—led his team to a 70-67 win over UMass on Nov. 12, it was a balanced and resilient attack on Saturday that willed Harvard to victory.
—Staff writer Henry Zhu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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