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 www.whrb.org. Pregame coverage begins at 6:45.