After making an impressive runner at the buzzer, Christian Juzang jogged into the Lavietes Pavilion locker room. Despite the acrobatic bucket to end the first period, Harvard still trailed, 26-25.
At press time, coach Tommy Amaker commented on what he told his team at the half. He reminded them of the magnitude of the game, later suggesting that the next 20 minutes had the potential to “define our season.”
His point was clear: Is this a Harvard team that can meet its preseason expectations of winning the conference? Or is it a team that will begin conference play with a sweep at the hands of Dartmouth?
There was reason for doubt. Fresh off of scoring 16 points in his heralded return to the floor — his first game action in nearly a calendar year — Bryce Aiken was scoreless at the half. The former Ivy League Rookie of the Year had missed all four of his field goal attempts and surrendered an additional two turnovers. His play wasn’t sharp.
Aiken would miss a few in the second half before finally getting on the board via a brilliant back cut. The smooth layup invigorated Aiken with exactly what he needed: a dose of confidence.
One can’t help but think back to the Ivy League Tournament semifinal in 2017, when Harvard suffered a heartbreaking loss to Yale. Playing with emotion, Aiken ended the game with 28 points. At his best, Bryce was full of moxie.
Aiken played the entire second half and ended his night with 14 points on 10 shooting attempts, including a pair of threes. He also knocked down all four of his free throw opportunities. Perhaps more noteworthy than his box score, however, is the intensity with which Bryce played the final 20 minutes.
The Big Green played well in their own right, showcasing a much-improved team from last year’s product. Sophomore Chris Knight gave Chris Lewis a fierce match in the post, despite the clear size disadvantage. Brendan Barry reminded those in attendance why he is perhaps the biggest threat from deep in the Ancient Eight. But, in the end, Harvard came out on top, 64-59.
Recently crowned Big 5 champions, Penn lies tied with Brown for last place in the Ivy League. The Quakers have endured a highly volatile season that makes their true ability hard to pin down.