Game #9-400: Brown Bears at Harvard CrimsonFebruary 2, 2013 7:00 pm
It is often difficult for college basketball fans who do not follow the Ivy League to understand the profound swings that race their way up and down the Eastern seaboard on cold winter Fridays and Saturdays. For every other college basketball league, the regular season is important, but there is always the safety blanket of the conference tournament to cushion the blow after a loss. This is not the case in the Ivy, and it lends added importance every game in the Fourteen Game Tournament.
A case in point was Brown's visit to Harvard two Saturdays ago. Harvard and Princeton had started the league campaign 3-0, and if both won, they would be two games clear at the top of the standings after only two weekends. The Princeton-Columbia game started an hour before Harvard-Brown, and was close at tip time in Allston.
During the first half, the Harvard fans were treated to an offensive masterclass by the home team. The Crimson made their first five shots from the field and had an effective field goal percentage of 75%. They raced out to a 49-36 lead. Harvard fans were less concerned with Brown's ability to score than the end of the Columbia-Princeton game. Smart phones were out in force in the student section as Harvard fans began rooting hard for the Lions.
By the end of halftime, however, it became clear that Princeton was going to pull out a close win at home. The Crimson fans returned to the game at hand. Harvard came out hot to start the second half, and eventually opened up a 23 point lead with 12 minutes to go. Everyone in Lavietes assumed that the game was over and that the weekend would end status quo ante in the Fourteen Game Tournament. Everyone, that is, except the Bears.
Brown's young head coach Mike Martin decided to roll the dice by playing a zone defense despite Harvard's hot shooting. Amazingly, it worked. The Crimson were stymied by the zone, scoring only three points in the next 10 minutes of game action. On the other end, All-Ivy guard Sean McGonagill and Matt Sullivan slowly pulled the Bears back into the game. With a minute remaining, a Cedric Kuakumensah layup cut the Harvard lead to 67-62.
After a Wes Saunders turnover, Kuakumensah was fouled and made two free throws with 21 seconds remaining. Laurent Rivard then made two free throws to push the lead back to 5 with 13 seconds remaining. After surviving a scare, the Crimson were going to win.
Except McGonagill banked in a three from 25 feet and Rivard slipped on the inbounds pass, allowing the Bears to steal the ball. Joe Sharkey missed a long two, but after an offensive rebound, McGonagill made a jumper with his foot on the three point line as time expired.
In the space of 20 minutes, Harvard had gone from an easy win at home to inches away from handing Princeton an enormous advantage in the race for the NCAA Tournament bid. And now they faced the prospect of overtime at home.
The overtime period was no less exciting than the final minute of regulation. Rivard opened the scoring with a long three, but McGonagill answered with a three of his own. Saunders then made a fallaway jumper to extend the Harvard lead to three, but Tucker Halpern hit another long jumper for Brown. Christian Webster made a three of his own with a minute remaining, but Stephen Albrecht somehow hit a very contested three from the right wing to tie the score again. If you were keeping track, six different players made superhoops in the overtime session.
Harvard held for the final shot with the score tied at 78-78, and Saunders got inside for a reverse layup with was halfway down before spinning out. The crowd was aghast and the teams staggered to their corners for another overtime session.
Webster began the second overtime as a ended the first by burying a three from the left wing. Albrecht finally missed a three, and Siyani Chambers snaked inside for an easy layup. Brown cut the lead to three with 90 seconds remaning, but Harvard got an offensive rebound and Saunders made a conventional three point play to make the score 86-80. Halpern couldn't conjure up the magic again, and the Bears were finally defeated.
It was just another Ivy Saturday Night that began at 6:00 on the banks of the Delaware River and ended at 9:30 on the banks of the Charles. To outside observers, the weekend did little to change a race that will likely be decided by the two Harvard-Princeton head to head matchups. To those at Lavietes, however, it was a roller-coaster of the highest proportions. Nights like these are why we love this game so much.
at HARVARD 89, BROWN 82
BROWN 8-10 (2-2) -- S. McGonagill 7-13 2-2 20; M. Sullivan 4-9 9-10 18; R. Maia 5-7 2-3 12; T. Halpern 3-11 0-0 9; C. Kuakumensah 3-6 2-2 8; T. Ponticelli 0-1 1-2 1; J. Sharkey 1-3 0-0 2; J. Schmidt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-50 16-19 70.
HARVARD 12-6 (4-0) -- L. Rivard 4-12 4-4 16; W. Saunders 8-13 2-2 18; S. Chambers 5-11 5-6 17; C. Webster 5-8 2-2 16; S. Moundou-Missi 2-2 5-11 9; J. Travis 3-4 1-2 7; K. Smith 3-4 0-0 6; A. Nesbitt 0-0 0-0 0; A. Okolie 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-54 19-27 89.
Three-point goals: BRWN 8-21 (S. Albrecht 4-11; T. Halpern 3-9; M. Sullivan 1-5; S. McGonagill 4-7), HARV 10-23 (C. Webster 4-7; L. Rivard 4-12; S. Chambers 2-4); Rebounds: BRWN 26 (T. Halpern 5), HARV 26 (S. Moundou-Missi 9); Assists: BRWN 14 (S. McGonagill 8), HARV 18 (S. Chambers 10); Total Fouls -- BRWN 21, HARV 19; Fouled Out: BRWN-C. Kuakumensah; HARV-None.