In the Crimson’s fourth game against a fellow Boston team, Harvard pushed its record to 5-1 overall and 5-0 at home with a scrappy (and interesting) win against Northeastern. After leading 16-4 just seven minutes into the game, Harvard allowed Northeastern to claw its way back. Second-chance opportunities burned the Crimson, accounting for 10 of Northeastern’s 22 first-half points. In the last 13 minutes of the first half, Harvard scored a mere 11 points. Given that Harvard was favored to win by eight points, its five-point lead going into the break should have felt encouraging, but considering Northeastern’s weak play, it was actually a disappointment.
In what seemed like a home game for UMass (half of the fans at Lavietes Pavilion were cheering for the Minutemen), Harvard eked out a much-needed win in the final seconds against a very good non-conference opponent. This victory, Harvard’s third in a row, was exactly what the Crimson needed as they continue to rebound from their tough early-season loss to Holy Cross. And in terms of their potential seeding in the NCAA Tournament (if they are fortunate enough to get there again), this game was huge. Harvard is starting to look like the national contender they were predicted to be going into the season. Individual performances in the UMass game, however, may provide the greatest reasons for the Crimson faithful to rejoice.
Hey, 1979 Penn Final Four Team? Don’t worry, you’re safe! And for that matter so too are the 1976 undefeated Indiana Hoosiers. Might as well throw in the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins. The 2014-15 Harvard Crimson men’s basketball team is not going undefeated. And it’s probably not going to the Final Four.
But let’s put Sunday’s one-point loss on a neutral court to a good Holy Cross team that had given the Crimson challenging games in each of the past two years in proper perspective … a perspective that all the Crimson-haters throughout the league often forget.
This is a very good Harvard team, incredibly athletic, with a mix of seasoned veterans and young learners. They were probably worthy of a No. 25 preseason AP ranking and will probably end up near that recognition as well.
But what they have to learn, and what other nationally ranked Ivy League teams of recent memory (Cornell, Princeton – although that wasn’t so recent) had to learn, is that a national ranking brings with it expectations and pressure to perform like a nationally ranked team every night. And frankly, that’s not easy for an Ivy League team, nor should it be.
Sorry, rest of the Ivy League. Harvard’s still Harvard.
Laurent Rivard, Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey may be gone, but Harvard’s ranked No. 25 in the nation and appears to be locked in cruise control en route to a fourth straight NCAA appearance, even in a loaded Ivy League. But let’s start with the negatives. Where is the perimeter depth now? 2013-14 Ivy Player of the Year Wesley Saunders is back and so is Siyani Chambers, who we’ll get to below. Agunwa Okolie, two-year Mormon church mission hiatus-taker Corbin Miller and rookie Andre Chatfield will all be stepping up to provide that depth. The frontcourt boasts the return of shot-blocking phenom Kenyatta Smith as well as the very well-rounded Steve Moundou-Missi. If the Crimson can find a potent three-point shooting wing who can complement Saunders and Chambers, they’ll be just as good as last year. Even if they don’t, they’ll win the Ivy League anyway.
Down 16 in the second half against Tom Izzo’s mighty Spartans, Harvard stormed back, capturing the lead and the nation’s attention on Saturday night before ultimately falling short in a 80-73 Round of 32 defeat.
The Harvard players celebrated and pointed to their fans as the TV cameras gazed admiringly upon the champs as they whooped it up after the buzzer sounded on yet another banner season for the Ivy’s newest dynasty. Meanwhile, silent Yale fans gritted their teeth, the inhumanity of their arch rival celebrating on their home court too much to bear. Tommy Amaker happily took in the moment, pointing to the stands and clapping briefly before moving swiftly and purposefully toward his team, directing them to the locker room. The message was clear. Winning the Ivy (again) is a great accomplishment, but Harvard’s work is not done. The Crimson have an eye on bigger things.
Chaos reigns yet again in the Ivy League. At one point on Saturday night, Dartmouth and Penn led Princeton and Harvard by healthy margins. Princeton would fight back to win, 68-63 on Senior Night, moving to 9-2 in the conference. Harvard, on the other hand, was unable to dig itself out of a 16 point hole, and fell a game behind Princeton in the loss column when Christian Webster”s desperation three at the buzzer fell short. Meanwhile, Brown completed a surprising road sweep of the C”s when Tucker Halpern”s step back three at the buzzer splashed through the net to spoil Senior Night at a stunned Levien Gymnasium. In Ithaca, Yale”s victory over undermanned Cornell was the only ho-hum result of the night.
- Tony Hicks is making a serious late push for Rookie of the Year. The award seemed completely wrapped up for Siyani Chambers a few weeks ago, but Hicks is averaging 23.8 ppg in his last four games, including 24 points in Saturday”s victory vs. Harvard. Hicks convincingly outplayed Chambers, who struggled to a 1-5 shooting, 7 turnover performance. Fellow freshman Darien Nelson-Henry was the other half of this superfrosh tandem, as the big man took advantage of Harvard”s size disadvantage, going for 18 points and 11 rebounds. Henry Brooks and Miles Cartwright also pitched in with 12 a piece for the Quakers, who had one of the wildest
up and down weekends imaginable, falling at home to Dartmouth before outplaying league-leading Harvard for the unconventional split.
On a night in which he passed Doug Davis to move into 2nd on the all-time scorers’ list in Princeton history, Ian Hummer took after his old teammate and refused to allow Harvard to walk away with the Ivy title in hand. With the game hanging in the balance in the final minutes, Hummer played with the desperate urgency of a senior who recognized the enormity of the moment. His put-back to take the lead, followed by a strong move to get position down low and get fouled were game-changers in the last two minutes, but Hummer brought the intensity from the tip. He had eight rebounds in the game’s first eight minutes and set the tone for his squad early on.
Saturday”s league contests had Ivy fans expecting two very close games between traveling partners. Instead, we got
two pretty decisive victories from Columbia and Brown. The Lions” victory provided more evidence that Columbia is a real contender this year. If they want to compete for the title, this was a road game they needed to have. Meanwhile the day”s biggest statement came from Brown. The Bears” victory wasn”t necessarily unexpected, but the way they routed Yale was certainly a surprise. For such a balanced team with many different ways to put the ball in the bucket, it”s worth noting that the Bears now boast the third-best defense in the league, yielding fewer than 1 point per possession. With Albrecht back now, perhaps we have to raise the ceiling for the quickly-improving Bears: reaching the top half seems to be within the realm of possibilities.
Cornell and Yale will have to go back to the drawing board to figure out a way to salvage a split with their traveling partners after disappointing opening weekends–Cornell with an eye on fixing the defense, and for Yale, the offense.
In some of the season”s final non-conference action, Harvard had a stirring comeback that fell short in Memphis and Penn was dismantled by St. Joe”s in a Big 5 matchup. Let”s take a look at this weekend”s top performers:
The last time that Harvard lost at Lavietes was February 19, 2010, a 79-70 loss to Cornell almost two years to this day. Since then, the Crimson has racked up—after last night’s comfortable 69-42 win over Brown—26 consecutive wins at home, and they now trail only Kentucky (49 wins) for the longest home winning streak in the country (D1). In short, as Yale’s season lies in the balance tomorrow—Yale must win to continue any hopes of seizing an Ivy League title—the Bulldogs are traveling into one of the toughest road environment’s imaginable to make or break their season.