Sunday, February 26, 2012

Quakers Upset Crimson 55-54, End Harvard Home Win Streak at 28

CAMBRIDGE, MA—Even the best-laid plans can come undone. What looked, for almost the entire night, to be a triumphant crowning of Harvard’s second-straight Ivy League championship turned into a last-second 55-54 Quakers upset. The Crimson, having led most of the game, were without an answer for Zack Rosen in the closing minutes, who tallied the Quakers’ final 9 points. With the loss, the University of Pennsylvania snapped a 28-game Harvard home winning streak that dated to February 19th, 2010, and dropped Harvard to 10-2 in Ivy League play.

Much like Friday’s matchup against the Princeton Tigers, Saturday’s started off in the Crimson’s favor. In the first four minutes, Harvard jumped out to a 7-2 advantage before surrendering an 11-2 run to the Quakers. Tyler Bernardini gave Penn its first lead, 11-9, at the 12:39 mark, while sophomore Fran Dougherty’s layup added another pair.

The Quakers, solid for the middle of the 1st, would go on to give up a 10-2 run to end the half. Freshman forward Wesley Saunders drove Harvard through the final four, tipping in his own miss at 3:24 and then nailing a tough layup with 6 seconds left to give the home-standing Crimson a 30-22 lead. With only 4.2 seconds left, however, Harvard would show a momentary lapse in an otherwise stellar final four, allowing Penn guard Miles Cartwright to go the length of the floor for an uncontested layup. Even so, following the buzzer-beater, Harvard headed to the break with a comfortable 6-point cushion.

In the second, it again looked like Harvard might manage—for the first time since Yale—to cruise to a comfortable victory against a highly-touted Ivy opponent. Kyle Casey and Keith Wright combined for 5 of 6 from the line in the first 2 minutes to give Harvard a 35-24 lead, as Penn started to struggle with the foul trouble that would eventually lead Henry Brooks and Steve Rennard to head off with 5.

However, a series of misses and giveaways, starting with a Casey miss at 17:02 and continuing through the 13 minute mark, meant that the Crimson weren’t ever quite able to put the Quakers away. After a McNally free throw put Harvard up 49-40 at 8:10, the Quakers started their final, inexorable ascent. A pair of Brooks buckets at 5:18 and 4:47 brought the Quakers within 5 (51-46). A long-range three from Zack Rosen, in excellent coverage, on the following Penn possession trimmed the difference to two at 4:03.

Try as they might, Harvard was unable to generate a response for Rosen in the final 4 minutes. The senior guard sunk an impossible turnaround jumper in the lane at 1:29 to make it 54-53 Harvard, and then drained a pair of free throws at :23 to take a 55-54 lead.

The Crimson, for what its worth, had their fair share of chances to take the lead in the waning seconds. With 15 left, junior guard Brandyn Curry drove towards the basket from the left side before kicking it out to freshman guard Corbin Miller. Miller, who was wide open on the left wing, narrowly missed the three. Harvard came down the offensive board and quickly called timeout with 5.7 seconds remaining. The inbound went to Kyle Casey, who crashed the net and looked to convert a short layup that would have given Harvard a 56-55 edge. Unfortunately for the Crimson, the goal was whistled down on a charge, giving the Quakers the ball with 3 seconds left. Harvard would fail to foul on the inbound, as Penn ran out the clock to secure a 55-54 upset.

“They’re a good basketball team, and we’ve always had tough games against them,” said Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker in the postgame press conference. “They played exceptionally well and made plays down the stretch.”

Both squads were plagued by turnovers, especially in the first. The bug was particularly pervasive for Harvard in the early minutes, as the Crimson gave the ball away 8 times in 12 minutes of play. Harvard finished with 20 turnovers to Penn’s 16, although the Crimson managed to best Penn in points off turnovers, 20-15.

“I was disappointed in our ability to handle the ball, to be efficient and disciplined,” admitted Amaker. “I’m sure they had a lot to do with that, but I’m sure we could have done more on our part too.”

With the loss, Harvard drops to virtual tie with Penn in the Ivy League standings, at two losses apiece. Harvard does have a game in hand over the Quakers, as Penn has yet to play the Princeton Tigers—their travel partner—for a second time. However, the loss means that Harvard no longer controls its ability to clinch an outright share of the Ivy title. The Crimson will need to win out and have a Penn loss (most likely to either Yale this Saturday or Princeton on Tuesday 3/6) in order to avoid a second consecutive Ivy League tiebreak game.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Harvard Claws Past Tigers 67-64, Breaks Program Win Record

CAMBRIDGE, MA—For the second time in as many years, Princeton guard Doug Davis drained a desperation heave—from near halfcourt—at the buzzer in a key matchup against the Harvard Crimson Friday night. But this time, it was not enough, as Harvard clawed its way to a 67-64 win over a Princeton squad that has, of late, been their closest rival. With the win, Harvard set a program record for wins (24), topping their previous best set last year during the 2010-2011 campaign (Harvard was 23-7).

“It was a little more than just a game for us,” quipped Harvard forward Kyle Casey, “A little something personal we had to throw everything into it tonight to pull it out.” Casey, who has been one of the key elements in Harvard’s attack throughout the year, took his play to another level on Friday night after a difficult outing in Princeton two weeks ago, in which the junior missed several key late-game free throws that allowed Princeton to establish an unassailable lead. This time around, Kyle was 7 for 13 from the floor and 5 for 6 from the charity stripe with 20 points. He also added 8 boards.

In the opening minutes, it looked like the Crimson might manage to run away with their second matchup against the Tigers. After a missed jumper by Princeton forward Ian Hummer to start things off, Harvard put together a 9-1 run in the first 3:30 of play. Kyle Casey nailed a 3 and added a jumper for 5, while Keith Wright and Brandyn Curry also tallied points in the early minutes.

Crimson hopes of an easy victory, however, were quickly dashed. A three from Crimson kryptonite Doug Davis (see last year’s tiebreak game) narrowed Harvard’s lead to 1 at the 13:09 mark, while a Patrick Saunders trey gave the Tigers a 21-20 lead at 8:50. A 9-3 Tigers run would leave Harvard, down 33-23, facing their biggest home deficit since their New Year’s Eve against Saint Joe’s.

The Crimson, however, ended the half with one of their strongest performances of the season to cut the Princeton lead to a single point to a single digit, 33-32. A gutsy three in coverage from Brandyn Curry at 1:46 was perhaps the most important play of the half for Harvard, as the junior point guard drew up and drained the shot from the left wing to narrow the lead to 3.

“I don’t feel anything, I don’t think about anything, I just play in those situations,” said Curry of the shot after the game. “If you’re thinking too much, then that’s when you tend to make mistakes.”

The start of the second half again saw a resurgent Princeton establish a stubborn advantage over Harvard. Doug Davis made a three to start off the scoring, and Tigers forward Brendan Connolly added a quick bucket on a layup in which he also drew a foul, but missed the ensuing free throw. A Jimmy Sherburne layup at 11:05 extended Princeton’s lead to 7, 50-43.

The Tigers lead, however, was to be short-lived. An and-one layup from Brandyn Curry narrowed the lead to two, and a steal (also Curry) on the next possession would set up the tying free throws from Keith Wright, 50-50.

While it was Wright’s free throws that tied the game, Oliver McNally—Harvard’s other co-captain—would seal it with some heaves of his own. McNally, who, at 89.7%, is the Crimson’s best free throw shooter, knocked down 6 of 6 in the waning minutes to lock down Harvard’s win.

“I wasn’t always a great free throw shooter,” McNally said, “but I’ve worked really hard at it, and every time I get to the line in those situations, to be honest, I tell myself, ‘You’re a senior, you’re a captain, you have to make it.’”

Tomorrow night, Harvard faces Penn in a battle of the Ivy League’s two remaining contenders. A win for Harvard would guarantee the Crimson at least a share of the Ivy League title.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Harvard Hockey Playoff Scenarios

I do apologize for a) the lack of hockey content in general on this blog and b) the lack of content in the following post but unfortunately real life work is intervening with my blog writing schedule. In years past, I've looked at all the playoff scenarios for the ECAC but this year I'll have to leave that to others to handle. (Though the standings to the right are updated and factor in the tiebreakers correctly.) Here's a quick look though at the playoff scenarios for Harvard.

With tonight's 4-1 win over St. Lawrence, the Crimson have clinched home ice for the playoffs and are currently in 3rd place in the conference. They can only go as high as 3rd place and they can slip as low as 6th place. Here are the scenarios. I've underlined the ones that lead to byes.

If Harvard wins...
The Crimson finish in 3rd place regardless of the result of the Colgate-Union game.

If Harvard ties...
And Colgate wins, the Crimson finish in 4th place regardless of any other results.
And Colgate loses or ties, the Crimson finish in 3rd place regardless of any other results.

If Harvard loses...
And Colgate picks up at least a point, the Crimson finish in 6th place unless the Yale-Quinnipiac game ends in a tie.
And Colgate picks up at least a point, the Crimson finish in 5th place if Yale-Quinnipiac tie. 
And Colgate loses, the Crimson finish in 5th place if Quinnipiac wins.
And Colgate loses, the Crimson finish in 4th place if Quinnipiac does not win.

To summarize: If Harvard wins or ties, they get a bye. If they lose, they need help to get a bye. Otherwise they risk falling as far as 6th place. The games to scoreboard watch are Union at Colgate and Yale at Quinnipiac. Harvard fans should cheer for Union and Yale. Any point for Harvard makes the chase for a bye academic. A win by Harvard makes standings watching moot, as Harvard would be in 3rd. 

PS - Without a doubt, I could not do this easily without the handy ECAC Playoff Possibilities Script created by The Big Red What? It even calculates tiebreaker scenarios, making my life very easy.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Crimson Tie Program Win Record, Defeat Yale 66-51

CAMBRIDGE, MA—Yale’s Greg Mangano scored 22 on 7 for 12 shooting Saturday night, but it was not enough to unseat the Crimson in Cambridge, as Harvard fought through for a 66-51 victory. The Crimson, who are now 23-3, tied their program record, set last year (23-7), for wins in a single season.

For much of the first half, Harvard looked set to match—or perhaps even exceed—its 65-35 drubbing of the Bulldogs in New Haven on January 27th. After giving up an opening three to Bulldogs star forward Greg Mangano, the Crimson ticked off a 23-6 run through the first 10 minutes of play. Crimson cocaptain Oliver McNally was 3 for 3 for 8 points during that stretch, including a pair from long range.

The Bulldogs, however, were determined to avoid a repeat performance. Down 35-15 with just under 4 minutes in the 1st, Yale coach James Jones called his team’s third timeout in a desperate attempt to staunch the bleeding, Out of the huddle, the Bulldogs mounted an 11-0 run to close out the 1st frame. Senior guard Reggie Willhite capped the stand on a jumper with three seconds left to send Yale off the court down 9, 35-26.

Coming into the second half, sophomore forward Jeremiah Kreisberg put down a jumper to extend the run to 13-0. While the scoreless run would end on the Crimson’s next possession, Yale continued to hack at Harvard’s lead. With 14:46 left to play, Greg Mangano hit a turnaround jumper along the baseline to draw the Bulldogs within 5.

In the end, however, it was Harvard’s guards who secured the Crimson victory. Up 47-41 with 9:57 remaining, Corbin Miller and Brandyn Curry struck in quick succession to put the Crimson ahead by 11. Harvard would ride that margin to a 66-51 final.

Curry, who is typically Harvard’s top facilitator, led the Crimson offense on 6 for 9 shooting for 18 points. “We depend a lot on what the matchups are,” said Curry after the game. “Tonight, Mangano’s tough down low, and they had a couple guards that were hurt, so I was just attacking all night,”

Despite facing both Mangano and Kreisberg down low, Harvard dominated the scoring in the paint, 32-10. The interior play was significantly more lopsided than it had been in New Haven, where Harvard had 20 points to Yale’s 12 in the entire game. Harvard also out-rebounded the Bulldogs 33-22.

“We’re certainly pleased with a tremendous defensive effort by our kids, and we certainly need it with the way Mangano can score inside and out,” said Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker.

With the win, Harvard improves to 23-2 and ties a program record for wins set last season. The Crimson will stay at home next weekend to host the Princeton Tigers and the Penn Quakers.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Men's Basketball Power Rankings

Kyle Casey, seen in last year's playoff game between Princeton and Harvard (image courtesy of Harvard Athletics)

Harvard (21-3, 7-1)
– Harvard has not won a game at Princeton in 23 years, and this ignominious trend continued as Harvard fell to Princeton Saturday night. The Crimson could not find an answer for Ian Hummer, and Laurant Rivard, Harvard’s main offensive option, was cold from the floor all weekend (0-8 from the 3PT). Their ultimate downfall? Harvard managed only 11 FTs, including a 1-5 outing from Casey, compared to the Tiger’s 24. A Cornell upset over Yale still keeps the Crimson atop the Ivy League, and the Crimson puts a 25 game winning streak at Lavietes on the line against Brown and offensive powerhouse Yale.

Yale (16-6, 6-2) – The Bulldogs salvaged a potentially devastating road weekend after a heartbreaking 85-84 loss against Cornell with a 59-58 escape at Columbia, leaving their destiny in their own hands. The Lions tactic of possession control to burn up the clock stifled the formidable Yale offense, but after trailing by 21 with 11 minutes left, Willhite, Mangano, and Morgan turned up another engine, culminating with a Willhite game-winning layup with 13 seconds left. The Bulldogs won’t get similar opportunities against the Crimson next weekend, a team known for improved stat lines in the last 5 minutes of games.

Penn (13-11, 5-2)
– Despite a relatively poor shooting night by his standards, senior guard and Ivy League MVP candidate Zack Rosen continued to play in a different dimension, draining a 3PT with 3.4 seconds left to lift the Quakers over the surprisingly relentless Big Green. However, Penn continues to play in streaks, as evidenced also on Friday against Harvard; the Saturday game was marked by 11-2 run for Penn, 14-1 run for Dartmouth, and 8-0 run for Penn. The Big Red, having won 3 straight now, will be a tough home contest for the Quakers next weekend.

Princeton (13-10, 4-3)
– Ian Hummer led the team in scoring, rebounds, and assists (20, 9, 6) to will his team to victory against the favored Crimson Saturday, making a statement about Princeton’s continued presence in the Ivy League’s elite. With five players in double digit scoring, the Tigers spread the ball, played excellent perimeter defense (kept the Crimson 5-18 from 3PT), and consistently executed plays to increase the touches for Hummer. Despite an off-night by Davis, the hero of last year’s playoff victory against Harvard, Princeton is picking up momentum at the right time.

Cornell (10-12, 5-3)
– Despite the list of injuries that have depleted Cornell’s roster, in particular its frontcourt, the Big Red’s guards put on a shooting clinic for the visiting Bulldogs. Gray and Wroblewski, who combined for 47 total points (8-12 from 3PT), kept Cornell in contention while the defense successfully contained Mangano by double teaming him at apt times. A Wroblewski 3 in OT sealed the deal on Friday, and they took care of business Saturday against Brown. Cornell, in what should be an off year, is having its say in the Ivy League.

Columbia (14-10, 3-5)
– Brian Barbour continues to challenge Rosen for the shooting crown in the Ivy League with an 18-point performance against Brown, but the Lions defense squandered a 21 point advantage after 9 minutes in the second half, allowing the Magano-Willhite-Morgan Cerberus to score from the paint freely (albeit keeping the Bulldogs 3-15 from 3PT). Their next three opponents are Penn, Princeton, and Yale, all on the road; better look at the tape to capitalize on their talent and the successes of their tempo-controlled offense.

Brown (7-18, 1-7)
– A 2-11 stretch, with 5 straight losses, has the Bears reeling from game to game. Like the Big Red, injuries have taken a serious toll on a once promising roster, with 9 players out for multiple stretches of the season, but Junior guards Stephen Albrecht and Matt Sullivan have stepped up in leadership positions, both offensively and defensively. Lavietes is a tough place to play…

Dartmouth (4-20, 0-8)
– A 1-13 stretch, with 7 straight losses, has the Big Green wishing for next year already. However, is the close 58-55 loss against Penn a harbinger of wins to come? They rallied back from a 15-point deficit, with Freshmen Jvonte Brooks posting a double-double (18pts, 10rbs), and the 27ft heave from Rosen was definitely a miracle on court. A welcome 4-game homestand with the hapless Bears coming next weekend may be the ultimate chance to salvage a winless season.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Crimson Sneak Past Lions, 57-52, to Stay Undefeated in Ivy Play

CAMBRIDGE, MA—In their most hair-raising contest of the conference season so far, the Harvard Crimson narrowly defeated the Columbia Lions Saturday, 57-52, to improve to 6-0 and stay in sole possession of first place in the Ivy League. A clash of the Ivy League’s top scoring defense might have augured for a bore—and yet the game on Saturday night at Lavietes Pavilion was anything but. Although the Crimson never trailed—Harvard struck first on a Brandyn Curry trey at the 19:26 mark in the 1st half—they never truly pulled away either, only once extending the lead to even as many as 8 points.

As the clock started to wind down in the second half, Harvard found itself in its closest late-game contest since their loss to Fordham a month and a day ago. With under 3 minutes to go, a jumper from Alex Rosenberg turned into a three point play on a foul by Harvard junior forward Kyle Casey. Senior Co-captain Keith Wrihgt, however, was quick to respond with a layup of his own that extended the Crimson lead back to two possessions. From then on, the Crimson were able tho hold to a tenuous two-possession lead, finally finishing with a 5-point advantage.

“They’re really good on the clock, and we’ve been working on that, so we tried to go with the same game plan, and it was pretty effective,” said Columbia head coach Kyle Smith of his team’s performance. Columbia limited the Crimson to only 43% shooting, several ticks below Harvard’s season average.

If “bench and balance” have been Harvard’s moniker for most of the year, Saturday night was—to borrow from The Wizard of Oz—a horse of a different color. 47 of Harvard’s 57 points (that’s 82%) came from just three players: Laurent Rivard (20), Keith Wright (15) and Brandyn Curry (12), who went 15-31 shooting and 13-20 from the free throw line. By comparison, the rest of the team was a combined 1 for 6 from the floor.

“Keith’s play in particular tonight was terrific, and I thought that was one of the bigger differences for us,” said Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker in the postgame press conference. Wright, who was 6-10 from the floor and 3 of 4 from the free throw line, totaled 15 points while grabbing 6 boards, the latter a team high. Even more, “[Keith] had maybe the biggest basket of the game for us,” said Amaker, referring to the layup that extended the lead back to four, 50-46, with 2:19 on the clock.

Free throw shooting was a problem for Harvard throughout the game. Despite making it to the line 32 times, the Crimson only converted on 21 of their opportunities. It wasn’t until the 4:02 mark in the second half, when Keith Wright made both heaves, that a Harvard player managed to make 100% of his given shots (Laurent Rivard twice made two—but he was shooting three).

Harvard returns to the road next week as they travel south to face the University of Pennsylvania Quakers and the Princeton Tigers. Friday’s game will be live streaming audio on, while Saturday’s will be heard on 95.3 FM WHRB in the Greater Boston area, and streaming live worldwide at

WHRB to Cover Men's Basketball Tonight

What: Harvard men's basketball vs. Columbia
When: February 4th at 7pm (coverage begins at 6:45)
Where: Lavietes Pavilion
Coverage: Beginning at 6:45pm on 95.3fm in the Boston area and around the world.

Scott Reed and James Yoon will be courtside tonight to broadcast men's basketball as Harvard (19-2, 5-0 Ivy) takes on Columbia (13-8, 2-3 Ivy). Be sure to listen live on or on the radio at 95.3FM in the greater Boston area. You may also follow the action on Twitter through the account @WHRBSports, as WHRB commentator Charlie Hobbs will be updating it frequently. Check back later for a post game writeup.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Big Red No Match, Harvard Defeats Cornell 71-60, to Grab Top Spot in Ivy League

CAMBRIDGE, MA—It’s not too often that Harvard fans find themselves rooting for Yale. But that was exactly the case in the waning minutes of Friday night’s game at Lavietes Pavilion. As the Crimson capped a comfortable 71-60 victory, the Bulldogs simultaneously edged out a last-minute win over the previously-undefeated Pennsylvania Quakers in New Haven. With the win and Penn loss, Harvard (19-2, 5-0 Ivy) takes sole possession of first place in the Ivy League standings.

While the Crimson didn’t quite repeat last Friday’s magnum opus, stellar outings from sophomore guard Laurent Rivard (16 points, 5-9, 3-7 from 3) and junior forward Kyle Casey (13 points, 3-6, 6-7 FT) meant that Harvard’s fate was never really in doubt. Rivard was particularly effective in the first half, racking up 11 points, including two fast-break baskets generated by a pair of aggressive steals.

In his midweek interview with WHRB, Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker praised his team’s offensive efficiency in the early minutes of the Yale and Brown games, and expressed his hopes that this trend would continue in front of Harvard’s home crowd.

Unfortunately for the Crimson, that wasn’t quite the case this Friday. Although Keith Wright struck first on a layup in the paint at the 19:18 mark, the Crimson committed 4 turnovers in the first five minutes, giving the Big Red 5 points and a 9-9 tie 5 minutes in. Subsequently, however, Harvard would hit its stride, establishing a 22-13 lead at the 7:56 mark. A quick layup at the buzzer by sophomore Wesley Saunders sent the Crimson into the break with a 14 point lead, 38-24.

The start of the second turned out to be a near carbon copy of the first. Down 38-24, the Big Red came out of the locker room hot, making two straight and capitalizing off of 5 Crimson turnovers in the first 4 minutes. “Its disappointing, how we did that,” said Amaker after the game. “I think we tightened it up [later in the game] because we were making those mistakes, and our attention span was different, and it needed to be.”

While offensive miscues may have troubled Harvard from time to time, on defense the Crimson looked to be on par for the season. Drew Ferry, the Ivy League’s leading 3-point shooter (averaging .420 from 3), shot only 2 for 9 from long distance. Junior guard Johnathan Gray, who was 6 for 12 on the night for 14 points, was the only Cornell player to break into double digits. “That’s what we do, we defend,” said Casey. “And when we’re not doing that, we’re not the team we’re capable of being.”

Perhaps the biggest difference on the night, however, was at the line. The Big Red committed 27 total fouls on the game, sending the Crimson to the line for 34 shots (they made 29). Harvard found itself in double bonus in both halves, doing so with 9:34 left to play in the second. By way of comparison, Cornell was 14-16 from the charity stripe on 17 Crimson fouls.

Tomorrow night, Harvard hosts the Columbia Lions in front of a sold-out Lavietes Pavilion. Scott Reed and James Yoon will broadcast the game live on 95.3 FM WHRB in the Greater Boston area, and streaming worldwide at Pregame coverage begins at 6:45.