The Harvard men arrived for their league-opening match with Dartmouth as a five-point favorite, according to KenPom. They also had former first team All-Ivy guard Bryce Aiken in uniform for the first time this season. Neither of those things mattered, in the end (and Aiken didn’t play anyway), as the Big Green used a sizzling 68 percent shooting performance to beat the Crimson, 81-63, for their first Ivy opening victory in 12 years.
Harvard (6-7, 0-1 Ivy) held a 17-13 lead through the first ten minutes, then Dartmouth (10-7, 1-0) took control with a 31-12 run to end the half up 44-29. Heading into the locker room, the Crimson shot 48 percent, but they were no match for the Big Green’s 57 percent from three (eight three-pointers from six different players) and 75 percent from two.
Dartmouth didn’t let up at the start of the second half, extending its lead to 55-34 after four minutes of action. After Aaryn Rai and Chris Knight executed a pick and roll slam dunk to make the Big Green lead 59-41 at the 13:45 mark, Harvard went on an 8-0 run over the next three minutes to cut the Dartmouth advantage to 10.
A Justin Bassey bank shot from the right side of the lane finally brought the Crimson within single digits, 68-59, with 3:58 left in the second half. Dartmouth’s James Foye came right back and nailed a three from the left side to push the lead back into double digits. Bassey went 1-for-2 from the line in the team’s next possession, but that would be as close as Harvard would get. Foye hit another three at the two-minute mark to make it a 77-61 game to effectively end any hopes the Crimson would have.
While Dartmouth’s 11 three pointers was just around their per game average, the two point shooting was a revelation. The Big Green entered the contest shooting 47.5 percent from two against Division I opponents, but ended up hitting an incredible 81 percent from inside the arc. Even though the Big Green played a small four-guard lineup against Harvard through the latter part of the second half and were dominated on the glass by 18 percent, they managed to stay even in paint production with both teams netting 38 points. The Crimson did well from inside the arc hitting 54 percent, but struggled from three and the foul line shooting 28 and 46 percent, respectively.
Sophomore forward Knight led the way in the Green & White’s total team effort with 20 points. Senior guard Ian Sistare finished with 13, junior Brendan Barry scored 11, Foye added 10, and Adrease Jackson picked up nine points in only 12 minutes of action for the victors. The Dartmouth bench, which was depleted with the loss of Will Emery to illness, came up big with 18 points from Rai, Wes Slajchert and Taurus Samuels.
For the defending co-champs, Christian Juzang kept them in the game with 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting. Chris Lewis added 13 on a 6 for 13 night, but he was often frustrated by Knight on the inside. First year Noah Kirkwood scored 11 and Bassey had seven.
With two Saturdays in the books, the Ivy League has proven it is as strong top-to-bottom as it has ever been. Earlier in the day, Princeton, last year’s fifth-place team, went to the Palestra and finished a sweep of Penn, the defending regular season co-champs. Tonight, last year’s eighth-place team and the squad picked last in this year’s preseason poll just dominated the other co-champs from 2018 and the 2019 preseason favorite.
With the biggest win in Dave McLaughlin’s three years at Dartmouth, the Big Green will certainly celebrate this evening, and then get ready for the rematch at Lavietes Pavilion in two weeks. Tommy Amaker’s Harvard squad, meanwhile, will hope to get Aiken and Seth Towns ready as they travel to D.C. to play Howard in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day matinee before hosting the Big Green on the 26th.