After 30 minutes of dominant play at Newman Arena, it seemed that the Harvard men’s basketball team could finally take a breath.
But once again, last minute inconsistency almost handed the Crimson its first Ivy League loss as its lead began to slip away down the stretch. Although Harvard (13-7, 5-1 Ivy) pulled out a 67-65 win over Cornell (10-12, 2-3), the game came down to a deep missed shot at the buzzer that would have put the Big Red on top.
With Harvard up by 20 midway though the second half, two straight turnovers and a Jonah Travis foul handed the Big Red the momentum, and Cornell held Harvard to only one score in the next four minutes.
The Crimson fought back and built its lead back up to 15 but found itself shut out as time wound down. With 4:21 on the clock, co-captain and guard Christian Webster scored Harvard’s final points of the night, and from then on it was all Big Red.
“We stopped working to get the ball,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “Whether that’s fatigue or whatever it is, we didn’t work to get open… They turned up the pressure and since then we were a little tentative.”
As Harvard struggled to find the bottom of the net, Cornell—which shot 49 percent from the field on the night—made clutch baskets down the stretch. The Big Red scored on its next five possessions and pulled within two before time ran out.
The Crimson was its own worst enemy down the stretch, committing seven turnovers in the last ten minutes and continuing its trend of playing into close games against Ivy League opponents. Of the five conference games Harvard has played this season, two have gone into overtime—most recently against Brown, when the Crimson blew a 22-point lead at Lavietes Pavilion last weekend.
“It’s been something that’s happened to us, being a very young team,” Amaker said. “We came out [strong] at the beginning of the second half, and I thought we were growing up right there, but we reverted back.”
THREE FOR ALL
After posting a season-high 16 points against the Bears last weekend, Webster topped his record by one, sinking five threes and adding two points from the paint.
Webster continued to show consistency from behind the arc when it mattered most, hitting back-to-back treys in the closing minutes of the second frame. The senior’s last minute heroics, which fueled Harvard’s comeback against Dartmouth in the team’s home opener, once again proved to be a deciding factor in the Crimson’s victory.
Shooting 46 percent from behind the arc, Webster notched a new season high with the five treys and continued to solidify his reputation as one of Harvard’s strongest shooters.
As Webster has heated up from behind the arc, the Crimson has relied less on its traditionally strong three point shooters—freshman point guard Siyani Chambers and junior co-captain and guard Laurent Rivard.
Rivard—who leads the team with 2.8 made threes per game—went 1-for-3 from deep on Friday, while Chambers accounted for two of the team’s 10 threes. When asked if the shifting roles on the team were by design, Amaker explained that scouting is a large factor.
“You can imagine how people are going to try to guard against Siyani and Laurent, so it’s going to be other guys who are going to be open for us,” Amaker said.