After a six-game winning streak gave Harvard a fighting chance to seize the top seed in the Ivy League Tournament from arch-rival Yale, the Crimson men fell to Brown, 64-55, at home Friday night and locked themselves into a matchup with Princeton. The Bears, who are wrapping up an impressive season but failed to vault into the top tier of the league, completed a season sweep of Harvard on the strength of 20 points from Zach Hunsaker and a solid defensive effort. On Senior Night, Harvard was as usual led by Chris Lewis, who had 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting, but sorely missed the steady hand of injured guard Christian Juzang. The usually reliable Noah Kirkwood struggled from the floor, shooting only 4-for-13 with no assists, and freshman guard Idan Tretout was not able to pick up the backcourt slack after having been thrust into action.
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.”
Live by the opponent’s last-second free throw, die by the opponent’s last-second free throw.
Harvard concluded a wild four-game road stretch with a 72-71 loss when Brown’s Tamenang Choh finished an “and-one” in the waning seconds, a night after Yale’s Azar Swain failed to convert a similar opportunity. On the back of Choh’s heroics and a dominant performance from Brandon Anderson, the Bears (11-8, 4-2 Ivy) picked up a crucial home win against the rival Crimson (14-7, 3-3) and proved that they can play with the best of the Ivy. The Crimson go home disappointed after four straight tight contests with surviving optimism about their ceiling but with urgent questions about their ability to finish games. The thrilling conclusion lent some excitement to a game that was otherwise difficult to watch, thanks to overzealous refereeing and occasional difficulties with clock management.
With Bryce Aiken watching from the sideline in a walking boot, Harvard withstood a late push from Dartmouth to take its Ivy opener, 67-62, at home.
The first half belonged to senior center Chris Lewis, who had 11 points and was perfect from the floor, while his freshman frontcourt partner Chris Ledlum led the Crimson (12-4, 1-0 Ivy) in the second half with 11 of his own. It was a game of highs and lows for Tommy Amaker’s squad, who withstood Dartmouth’s hot start and good shooting from behind the arc (41%) in the first half, but almost squandered a 12-point lead in the final minutes.
No. 6 Harvard registered the first win for an Ivy League team in the NIT in 17 years courtesy of a balanced scoring effort, turning in a 71-68 win at Georgetown.
Despite trailing 54-49 with 11:52 to play, the Crimson (19-11) fought back, overcoming a 5-for-24 (20.8 percent) shooting effort from deep at McDonough Arena for their postseason win since 2014, when the Crimson upset Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament.
Minutes before game time at Howard University on Monday afternoon, Harvard Basketball tweeted out the day’s second most important announcement from the D.C. campus – for the first time in 348 days, junior guard Bryce Aiken would be on the court for the Crimson.
The Dartmouth men’s basketball team welcomes Harvard on Saturday night for both programs’ Ivy tip-off. The Crimson have won the last four meetings and five of the last six, including both games in 2018. On Jan. 6, Harvard beat Dartmouth 61-51 at Lavietes Pavilion, while earning a 62-57 overtime victory at Leede Arena on Jan. 20.
The Big Green, picked eighth in the Ivy media preseason poll, finished the nonconference schedule at 9-7, already the most single season wins in coach David McLaughlin’s three-year tenure and the school’s best mark since going 8-4 in the 1996-97 campaign. The team is now ranked at No. 223 by KenPom, the program’s best since 2015, and look to defend their home court against the 2018 regular season co-champs and 2019 preseason Ivy favorites.
Harvard took the floor on Saturday night with an immediate disadvantage: already 8.5-point underdogs on the road against the Gaels, the Crimson had arguably their three best players donning street clothes. On the far right side of their bench sat Bryce Aiken, Seth Towns, and, to the surprise of many, Chris Lewis, Harvard’s leading scorer.
After earning Ivy Rookie of the Year honors in his freshman campaign, Aiken battled knee ailments all of last year and missed an extended amount of time. When he did play, it was clear that he wasn’t at full strength. The former top-100 recruit underwent surgery this past offseason, and was expected to be healthy by the start of this year. However, Aiken has yet to see action in the 2018-19 season.
It’s been an eerily similar journey for Towns, whose breakout sophomore season earned him the 2017-18 Ivy League Men’s Player of the Year award. The lanky sharpshooter scored just under 23 points per 40 minutes last year, shooting more than 44 percent from deep. His impact on Harvard’s offense was especially noticeable late in the shot clock; when the Crimson had no open looks and the clock was nearing zero, Towns would often create shots on his own via isolation play.
Last year’s season was a mixed bag for the Crimson. The team emerged from spotty non-conference play to dominate the Ancient Eight, going 12-2 and sharing the conference title with the Quakers. Of course, Penn would go on to defeat Harvard in the conference tournament and earn the most coveted prize: a trip to March Madness.
The Quakers undoubtedly benefited from playing the conference tourney on their home floor, a built-in advantage that executive director Robin Harris has decided is worth the trade-off of hosting the Ivy League Tournament at the largest and most historic venue that the conference has to offer. However, while Crimson fans might be apt to cry foul, there is reasonable evidence that Penn was indeed the best team in the Ivy League.