Harvard outlasts tough Dartmouth squad in Ivy opener

Harvard is 1-0 on the young Ivy season after a hard-fought 77-70 win over Dartmouth on Saturday afternoon at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge. Uncertainty loomed heading in, as Tommy McCarthy and Patrick Steeves were both questionable due to injuries sustained a week ago during a tight loss to Vermont (a game in which both were dearly missed). Against Dartmouth, McCarthy played only 16 minutes, while Steeves proved he was fully healthy by scoring a career-high 20 points.

Dartmouth played very well in this one, and Harvard trailed by as many as nine points late in the first half. But a 16-7 run, sparked by 11 straight points from Steeves and Agunwa Okolie, and capped off by a deep three from Corey Johnson at the halftime buzzer, injected some life into the Crimson. After halftime, Harvard began clicking on offense, but so did Dartmouth. The seven-point lead that Harvard grabbed to begin the second half was quickly erased by the Big Green, and the game stayed close the rest of the way.

Harvard led by only one with 3:23 to go in the game after a Kevin Crescenzi three for the Big Green, but Harvard, led by Okolie and Steeves, responded. The two seniors scored Harvard’s last 14 points, which included going 6-for-6 from the charity stripe, to seal the win for the Crimson.

In this game, Agunwa Okolie did something we have been waiting for him to do for years: The quick, athletic, 6’8” forward drove and cut to the hoop to get his shot. He shot 9-for-11 from the floor, 10-for-10 from the line, and 1-for-1 from beyond the arc. Okolie got most of his shots off nice drives to the hoop, but he also knocked down three jumpers. In a game in which Harvard didn’t attempt as many threes as it usually does (only 12 compared to its average of 19 per game), Okolie provided a necessary scoring presence, complementing the tenacious defense for which he is known. Many of his layups were set up by Zena Edosomwan passes, after Okolie’s man focused on double-teaming Harvard’s dominant center.

Edosomwan made Dartmouth pay for double-teaming him, finishing with six assists (to go with eight points). His improved passing ability will make other Ivy teams think twice about double-teaming him, but benefactors of the focus on Zena, such as Okolie, Evan Cummins, and three-point shooters Corbin Miller and Corey Johnson, will have to continue to play well in order to keep opposing defenses honest.

It’s also interesting to note that Edosomwan was kept on the bench for the last few minutes of the game (he only player 22 minutes total), likely because of his sub-50 percent free throw percentage. We’ll see if Amaker chooses to bench his best player on both ends against better teams in closer games.

The Big Green also looked very sharp, and the duo of Miles Wright and Evan Boudreaux will carry Dartmouth far this season. Wright scored 23 points, even while guarded by Okolie, who usually stymies his assignment, while Boudreaux proved to be practically unguardable. The 6’8” forward, who was defended by Cummins and Edosomwan, has the quickness of a smaller player, must be respected on the outside (he was 2-for-3 on threes in this game), and has the post moves of an All-Ivy veteran. This lethal combination makes him a matchup nightmare. Don’t be surprised to see the Big Green compete for another top-four finish in the Ivy League this season.

The Crimson will travel to Hanover when it continues Ivy play in two weeks, in what is sure to be another tough game. Between now and then, the Crimson will take on a Canadian team, Ryerson, on Tuesday night, and then they will go to the nation’s capital to play Howard next Saturday in their final nonconference tilt of the season.

If game one is any indication, this year’s 14-Game Tournament is shaping up to be another thrilling edition for Harvard.

3 thoughts on “Harvard outlasts tough Dartmouth squad in Ivy opener

  1. After watching that game it was hard to figure how Harvard played Kansas and Oklahoma so close. Maybe just a “play to the level of your competition” thing. I still think Crimson are the best in the League right now, however, because of their rebounding and three point shooting which can swing games, and what Dartmouth did shows more the depth of the league than the weakness of Harvard. Everyone except Brown and Penn should be in contention for a top 3 finish this year, and take out Dartmouth and everyone’s in contention to win it all.

  2. Interesting observation regarding Zena going to the bench at crunch time to avoid the “Hackazena” ploy. The Tigers face the same quandary with Pete Miller and Alec Brennan. Neither is a reliable FT shooter, although Miller has IMPROVED to 45% this season. This situation results in a lot of subbing in and out at the end of games, lengthening them considerably. Not like the NBA, but getting there…..

  3. A great game. Close up to the last two minutes – indeed, anybody’s game. Dartmouth looks solid and should provide some worthy completion to the current claimants of the top three: Yale, Columbia, Harvard.
    Princeton and Dartmouth may prove venerable spoilers, at least.

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