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.
The Crimson kept pace with Yale and Princeton by winning against a pesky Columbia team in Manhattan Friday night. When stalwart point guard Christian Juzang went down with a serious-looking ankle injury, Rio Haskett rose to the occasion as the next man up and personally put Columbia away with a late-game scoring flurry. Mike Smith once again performed heroically, with 34 points against a stout Harvard defense, but the rest of his teammates failed to hold up their end of the bargain. Haskett was one of four Harvard players who scored in double figures, including a double-double from Justin Bassey and a 6-for-6 free throw performance from Chris Lewis. Harvard came very close to sharing the Ivy league lead with arch-rival Yale, but Penn’s late-game meltdown kept Harvard firmly in second place with Princeton.
In a game in which they were favored by 14.5 points, Harvard struggled to pull away from Columbia and barely escaped with a victory in double overtime. Mike Smith scored 38 points, more than half of Columbia’s total output, and came very close to stunning the Crimson on the road. Harvard struggled badly to generate offense, attempting most of its field goals from beyond the three-point line and making only eight of 43, and contain Smith, who took 37 shots and made 17 in 49 minutes of play. Both sides made crucial plays to extend the game. Smith drove to the basket for an open layup to tie the game at the end of regulation, and Christian Juzang scored after a crucial offensive rebound by Justin Bassey to force double overtime.
In their return to Lavietes Pavilion after a harrowing five-game road trip, the Crimson turned in a thoroughly dominant performance against an overmatched Cornell squad. When the dust settled at halftime, Harvard was leading 42-15 and had long since dispelled any suspense about the game’s final outcome. The easy win came at a perfect time for Harvard after a four-game stretch in which each contest was decided by three points or fewer.
Harvard’s frontcourt pressed its athletic advantage throughout the game, with Chris Lewis, Chris Ledlum, and Danilo Djuricic combining for 41 points while shooting an astounding 75% from the floor. Harvard also outrebounded their opponents 40-30, creating a number of easy second-chance points. Freshman Idan Tretout took advantage of increased playing time in the second half to contribute nine points and was one of seven Harvard players to score at least seven.
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.
One week later, and not much has changed.
Harvard once again came close to blowing a double-digit lead in the final minutes but again managed to hold on for just long enough to come away from Hanover its eighth straight win, 70-66, and a sweep of Dartmouth.
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.