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.
Brandon Anderson was unquestionably the star of the game for Brown, scoring 22 points and harrying Harvard with elite defense all night long. Choh chipped in 17 points and six rebounds of his own, while Zach Hunsaker scored 12 and was perfect from the free throw line. The win brings Mike Martin’s squad to 4-2 in the conference and establishes its bona fides as a contender, despite struggling at times to generate consistent offense. Robert Baker followed up a double-double against Yale with 18 crucial points, although his foul on Choh in the closing seconds sealed Harvard’s fate. It was fitting that the game was decided on what could be considered a questionable call, since both teams were intensely frustrated by the referees’ quick whistles that gave an astounding 18 players at least two fouls apiece.
Harvard’s optimal offensive pecking order has become clearer over the past six games as the Crimson adjust to life without Bryce Aiken. Production from Noah Kirkwood and Chris Lewis is a necessity, and Christian Juzang remains the only player who can competently serve as lead guard. Beyond those three, any of several Harvard players (Baker, Justin Bassey, Chris Ledlum, Danilo Djuricic, Rio Haskett) are equally capable of filling up the box score or remaining largely invisible for 40 minutes. On the defensive end, Harvard is faced with two major challenges: The entire team must use its size to compensate for a general lack of defensive quickness, and the frontcourt needs to be able to stand up to the Ivy’s best bigs even with Lewis resting or in foul trouble.
In the first weekend of conference play, Harvard almost blew two comfortable leads against an inferior Dartmouth team and was lucky to escape with a sweep. In the second, the Crimson’s inability to finish games brought them an overtime loss at Penn and a one-point defeat at Princeton. This weekend’s split continued both trends, as Harvard survived a late Yale comeback but couldn’t close against Brown. This lack of improvement is worrying for coach Tommy Amaker and his staff, whose eventual ability to count on Bryce Aiken seems to be less and less likely by the week. Harvard now must hope that a return home to Lavietes Pavilion, where the Ivy League Tournament will be played this year, will provide a much-needed boost.