It came down to the wire in Ithaca on Saturday night.
With the game on the line, Harvard had the chance to cement a late win against the Big Red at the charity stripe. With 1:28 left on the clock and with the Crimson in the bonus, sophomore guard Justin Bassey was fouled on a pump fake just outside the three point line. The junior went to the line and made both shots to put Harvard up 72-69.
Following a block from the Crimson on the other end and a turnover from Bassey on offense, Cornell regained possession with just 40 seconds left on the clock. Sophomore forward Josh Warren got a favorable switch and dumped the ball off to junior forward Stone Gettings.
Gettings drove inside and was met by freshman forward Danilo Djuricic. Djuricic fouled the 6’9’’ forward, but his shot would fall to put the Big Red within a point at 72-71. With 30 seconds left on the clock, Gettings—who had done everything but miss on the night and already had a game-high 30 points—went to the line with a chance to tie the game.
After going a perfect 4-of-4 from the line up until that point, the junior bounced the free throw off the back iron and into the hands of Bassey.
The Crimson closed the game out shooting a perfect 4-of-4 from the charity stripe and a last second heave from Morgan wouldn’t find the back of the net as Harvard escaped 76-73.
“It’s always tough playing on the road in the league, so coming in we knew it would was going to be a tough one like it was last night,” sophomore forward Seth Towns said. “Last two minutes it was the same as it always is in crunch time, just coming out with the W, just being in the moment and getting it done.”
ON DEFENSE AND AT THE LINE
What began as an offensive effort from both squads ended with shots that were perhaps a bit easier to make. Through the first frame, Harvard shot an efficient 48 percent from the field and much like it did the night before, shot incredibly from deep—58 percent through the first 20 minutes.
For its part Cornell—and especially Gettings—made the shots the Crimson gave it early. Tasked with defending the versatile big man, Lewis struggled to meet the forward out on the perimeter and Gettings rained corner threes in the early going. With the Harvard defense collapsing on the pick and roll, the junior finished the first half with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.
On the night, Gettings would finish with 32 points on 11-of-22 shooting from the field.
“[Gettings] is a very tough kid to guard because of his ball skills for his size,” head coach Tommy Amaker said. “It’s a hard matchup especially when he’s playing like the five man, so now we have our bigs who are traditionally interior guys trying to chase and guard him out on the perimeter and he’s as good with the ball as any of their perimeter players. Tremendous effort by that kid.”
The early offensive, however, gave way to a much slower second half. For a second night in a row, Harvard had to break a full court press for much of the second act. Much like it worked to slow the Crimson the night before, the press grounded Harvard in the early going of the second half.
The slower play gave way to a slew of fouls which would put both teams in the bonus early in the half. The late free throws would prove to be the deciding factor of the night. While Gettings’ late miss would cost the Big Red the game late, Cornell struggled from the line all night, going 10-of-18 from the charity stripe.
For its part, the Crimson missed from the free throw line just once—going a 15-of-16 from the line and a perfect 10-of-10 in the second frame.
“I just thought that we showed great composure and were incredibly efficient down the stretch offensively,” Amaker said. “Big shots by Seth and Danilo [Djuricic] and tremendous free throw shooting down the stretch. Very, very proud of that.”
In a season that’s seen plenty of notable individual performances from players such as Towns, Lewis, and a now injured Bryce Aiken, Saturday’s win for Harvard came from an all-around balanced effort.
In total four different players scored in double digits, while sophomore Christian Juzang tied a career-high with 12 points.
“I’m really pleased with how [Juzang’s] been able to adopt the role he’s in now based on Bryce and Rio being a freshman,” Amaker said. “Christian is a guy that has to shoulder the responsibility of being our main quarterback and I’m very pleased with his growth and development at this stage.”
The sophomore also added a career-high six rebounds to go with three assists.
Despite the late press working to slow the Crimson’s offense, Harvard passed the ball well against the Cornell defense. In total Harvard assisted on 17 of its 25 made bucket with Towns chipping in a career-high six.
Coming off the bench, freshman forward Danilo Djuricic added 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field
—Staff writer Troy Boccelli can be reached at email@example.com.