ITHACA, N.Y. – Despite the absence of Christian Juzang due to injury, Harvard pulled out a 67-58 win over Cornell, putting the Crimson in sole possession of second place in the Ivy standings.
“They’re an impressive group,” Cornell coach Brian Earl said. “I won’t miss some of their seniors on their team. They’re grown men.”
The first half was super streaky, although relatively close. Harvard (20-7, 9-3 Ivy) opened up on a 6-0 run, followed by an 8-0 run from Bryan Knapp for the Big Red (6-19, 3-9).
“My teammates [are] looking for me,” Knapp said. “I had five, then Terrance [McBride] was like, ‘I’m getting you the ball,’ and he drove, kicked it to me.”
Harvard came out of the back-and-forth first stanza with an eight-point halftime lead.
“They’re a big group of athletic guys,” said Earl of Harvard.
The Crimson controlled most of the second half, taking a 20 point lead with 13:44 to play. Rio Haskett hit two early threes in the half and Noah Kirkwood added another.
But the Big Red did make it a little interesting. They managed to cut the deficit to eight points with 1:48 left behind good defense.
“We threw a little press out, got a little bit of a zone that confused them, and made some threes,” said Earl.
But ultimately, Harvard held on for the nine-point win.
“We were able to turn them over 19 times,” said Earl. “Our guys got some hands on passes. They fought hard.”
The Crimson had a very balanced effort on the evening. Robert Baker led Harvard with 12, and Rio Haskett was right behind him with 11 points. Chris Lewis added eight points, while Justin Bassey, Danilo Djuricic, and Noah Kirkwood each had seven. Kirkwood, however, only played 21 minutes as he was dealing with a lower-body injury.
For the Big Red, it was once again Terrance McBride leading the way in place of the injured Jimmy Boeheim.
“Harvard does a really good job of denying the high post,” said McBride. “I took it upon myself to get in the lane and create shots for myself.”
Knapp added 10, while Kobe Dickson scored eight. Dean Noll added seven.
The Big Red actually shot slightly better than the Crimson and were only outrebounded by six, but the story of the game was foul-shooting. Harvard made 26 of 33 attempts from the free-throw line as Cornell fouled 27 times.
“These refs want to make calls,” said Knapp. “You have to understand that they want to blow their whistle. You just have to know that. Like at the end, with that foul in the corner, we weren’t supposed to foul there. They want to blow their whistles.”
Next week, the Big Red will travel to face Penn and Princeton. They haven’t won a game on that road trip since 2013, and if they beat Princeton, they will sweep the season series with the Tigers for the first time since 2010.
Getting sole possession of second place in the Ivy standings courtesy of Princeton’s loss at Yale, Harvard will look to steal the No. 1 seed in the Ivy League as the Crimson host Brown and Yale. If Harvard sweeps the weekend, it nabs the No. 1 seed with the Ivy League Tournament held in its own gym.