Game #9-342: Dartmouth Big Green at Harvard CrimsonJanuary 26, 2013 2:00 pm
For 38 minutes on Saturday, the Dartmouth Big Green thoroughly and comprehensively outplayed Harvard on the road at Lavietes Pavilion. To put that accomplishment in context, you need to know a bit about Dartmouth basketball.
To say the Big Green have struggled recently would be an understatement. Dartmouth has only beaten two teams that finished the season with winning records in the last decade. They have no wins over top 150 Ken Pomeroy teams in that timeframe. The fans in Hanover have seen their team finish outside of the cellar in the Ivy League once in the last ten tries.
While Dartmouth has struggled again this season, there are signs of green shoots beneath the permafrost that has been Big Green basketball. Paul Cormier's team is very young, with only one upperclassman seeing any playing time, and probably more talented from 1-8 than any Dartmouth team since 2007.
Nevertheless, no one expected the Big Green to come into Lavietes, where Harvard had won 34 of their last 36 games, and dominate a team that was picked to finish second in the conference. But that is exactly what Dartmouth did.
Given this record, you would have forgiven the home fans at Lavietes their stunned silence over the first 38 minutes of the game. For 36 of those minutes, Harvard trailed by at least five points. The Big Green played ferocious defense, denying Harvard's potent shooters on the perimeter and forcing 12 first half turnovers. Harvard came into the game as one of the best three point and free throw shooting teams in the country. For 38 minutes, the Crimson were 1 of 16 from deep and shot 50% from the free throw line.
Unfortunately for Dartmouth, there are 40 minutes in a regulation college basketball game.
With 100 seconds left, Harvard had the ball down 57-47. Siyani Chambers found an open Christian Webster, who buried Harvard's second made three of the game. The Crimson immediately fouled Gabas Maldunas, Dartmouth's Lithuanian big man who was shooting 52% from the free throw line for the season. Maldunas missed the front end of his one and one, and on the ensuing Harvard possession, fouled Laurent Rivard on a three point attempt. Suddenly, the Dartmouth lead was five points.
After two made Dartmouth free throws and a Chambers layup, the lead remained five with a minute remaining. The Big Green proceded to throw away the in-bounds pass, but somehow 5'9" point guard Malik Gill stripped Chambers at the rim. Dartmouth headed to the line again, surely believing that they had weathered their mistake. John Golden made one of two free throws.
The Crimson came down court and ran a beautiful perimeter screen play to get Webster an open three at the top of the key, which he buried. Suddenly with 45 seconds left, it was a three point game. The Harvard student section, which had previously been stunned into silence, was delirious. Yet Gill, who was fouled by Harvard, calmly sank two free throws. The lead was back up to five.
Harvard ran the exact same play for Webster, who promptly made his third three in the last 60 seconds to cut the lead to two. With the entirety of Lavietes on its feet, John Golden stepped to the line and missed both of his free throws. 62-60 Dartmouth, Harvard ball.
I think Dartmouth expected Harvard to hold for the last shot. That is the only explanation I can find for Gill having his head turned as Chambers started his drive. Siyani hit the most wide open layup you will ever see in a half court set to tie the game at 62. Gill's desperation three at the buzzer fell wide right, and Harvard, dominated for 38 minutes, had forced overtime with 15 points in 90 seconds.
The overtime began with senior student section leader Adam Riegel, who probably has the loudest voice I have ever heard, leading the students in a rousing rending of "I believe." Harvard promptly rewarded that faith with scores on their first four possessions of overtime. Despite the Big Green putting up a valiant effort, that seven point deficit to start the overtime period proved too much to overcome. Harvard went 13 for 15 from the free throw stripe in overtime, and actually scored as many points in the five minute period as they had in the entire first half.
As everyone knows, there is no conference tournament in the Ivy League. Instead, the schools play a true round robin, a Fourteen Game Tournament to decide who will represent the league in March. Thus every game is magnified. What would have been a program-changing win for Dartmouth could also have been a season-changing loss for Harvard. Instead, the Crimson survived and remained perfect in Ivy play.
For Dartmouth, the future remains brighter. Although they did not get the win they most likely deserved, they take the knowledge that they can play with anyone in the league. Given that they return everyone on the team next season, they will likely expect to change some of those dreadful statistics they have accumulated over the last decade.
It is quite possible that both teams will point to Harvard's Two Minute Miracle as an inflection point in their programs' trajectories.
at HARVARD 82, DARTMOUTH 77
DARTMOUTH 4-12 (0-2) -- C. Boehm 6-13 2-2 14; J. Brooks 4-5 1-2 9; A. Mitola 3-7 0-0 6; J. Golden 6-8 1-4 15; T. Melville 3-8 2-2 8; G. Maldunas 2-3 3-5 7; M. Gill 4-10 6-9 15; B. McDonnell 0-1 0-0 0; K. Crescenzi 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 29-58 15-24 77.
HARVARD 10-6 (2-0) -- W. Saunders 5-8 10-14 20; S. Chambers 6-14 9-12 21; L. Rivard 1-7 4-6 7; C. Webster 4-9 1-2 13; J. Travis 7-9 2-3 16; S. Moundou-Missi 2-3 1-1 5; K. Smith 0-1 0-0 0; A. Nesbitt 0-0 0-0 0; A. Okolie 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-53 27-38 82.
Three-point goals: DART 4-16 (T. Melville 0-3; J. Golden 2-3; C. Boehm 0-5; K. Crescenzi 1-1; A. Mitola 0-1; M. Gill 1-3), HARV 5-21 (C. Webster 4-9; L. Rivard 1-7; S. Chambers 0-4; A. Okolie 0-1); Rebounds: DART 29 (C. Boehm 11), HARV 32 (W. Saunders 7); Assists: DART 10 (A. Mitola 5), HARV 16 (S. Chambers 7); Total Fouls -- DART 28, HARV 20; Fouled Out: DART-J. Brooks; HARV-S. Chambers.