Saturday, March 1, 2014

Game Recaps: Harvard 72 Cornell 47

Box Score I Box Score (PDF) | Game Highlights

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – On Harvard's Senior Day, the experienced Crimson waited out a patient, young Cornell team and finished off the Big Red 72-47 on Friday evening at Lavietes Pavilion. The Crimson improved to 23-4 (10-1 Ivy), while the Big Red slipped to 2-23 (1-10 Ivy).

With just 10 players in uniform due to injury and illness for Cornell, the three-time defending Ivy League champion proved to be too much. Despite the final, several young Big Red players had strong efforts. Freshman guard Darryl Smith had 14 points, one off his career high, and added four rebounds. Sophomore Nolan Cressler chipped in eight points, three rebounds and two steals and senior Dwight Tarwater had 10 points. Freshman David Onuorah had four blocked shots and three rebounds in just 21 minutes of action while nettling foul trouble.

Siyani Chambers had 15 points and four assists to lead three double figure scorers, with Brandyn Curry adding 12 and Kyle Casey scoring 10. The Crimson shot 51 percent from the floor and held a decisive 34-18 edge on the glass.

Combined with Yale's 57-46 loss at Princeton, the Crimson moved within one game of clinching at least a share of the Ivy League title. A win tomorrow against Columbia or a loss by Yale at Penn would give Harvard a share of the title. A win and a Yale loss would give them the league's automatic NCAA berth.

Cornell tried to slow down the Crimson by milking the shot clock much of the first half, and it worked for much of the first 13 minutes. Four minutes into the contest, the Big Red went into the media timeout leading 2-0, and the leading statistics was freshman David Onuorah's impressive three blocked shots. A frustrated Harvard team watched the visitors use up a majority of the shot clock and get late buckets and Cornell led 8-7 nine minutes into the game. With 13:28 left, Onuorah was sent to the bench with his second foul, changing the complexion of the game.

Harvard got a steal and layup from Curry to regain the lead and never looked back. After a Darryl Smith 3-pointer got Cornell back within four at 17-13 with 7:14 left, the home team ended the half on a 17-5 run to go into the break leading 34-18.

Cornell ended the first half on a 5-2 run and then scored the first five after the break to cut the lead to 11, but the visitors weren't able to get within single digits. Harvard methodically was able to pull away, extending the lead to as many as 26 in the waning minutes after both teams had cleared the bench.

The Big Red will head to Dartmouth to play the Big Green on Saturday, March 1 at 7 p.m. at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H. 

It wasn’t until Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry were standing arm-in-arm with their mothers at halfcourt that it finally hit them.
Flashes from cameras flickered in their faces. Their mothers clutched bouquets of flowers. Their names echoed throughout Lavietes Pavilion, honoring the Crimson seniors on a night dedicated to their class.
Casey turned to Curry and said, “Man, you remember when we watched Jeremy up here [in 2010]?”
Five years ago, they were two teenagers who were sold on Tommy Amaker’s pitch to turn Harvard into a basketball brand name.
They saw signs of it before they ever stepped on campus, when they were glued to their televisions and their cellphones watching Jeremy Lin carve up Boston College and quietly start a culture shift for Harvard basketball.
“I remember just watching the BC game and calling Brandyn,” Casey said. “I was like, ‘You watching this?’ ”
For them, it was confirmation.
Casey told Curry, “Man, let’s do it.”
Five years later they were in standing in the same spot as Lin. When they looked to their left they saw the banner with their three Ivy League titles. They thought about the program’s five straight 20-win seasons. They thought about their roles in bringing Amaker’s vision to fruition.
“It’s just been a journey and an experience of a lifetime,” Casey said. “With ups and downs, but it’s been very rewarding and fulfilling.”
At the same time, they had a game to think about. Two, actually. The one they were playing Friday night against last-place Cornell was their most immediate concern. But the one in New Jersey between Princeton and second-place Yale had a direct effect on the race for the Ivy League title.
While the Crimson were neatly filing away a 72-47 blowout — shooting 51 percent from the floor, drilling eight 3-pointers, and knocking down 18 of 21 free throws — the out-of-town score was low on their list of priorities.
“Whatever’s going to go on is going to go on,” Amaker said. “I don’t think that we can control a lot of things, but we have a chance to influence what we’re doing and that’s all that matters. You can get focused and fixated on other things and lose sight of what’s the most important, which is us.”
Amaker was more concerned with starting four seniors. For Laurent Rivard (6 points), the start made him Harvard’s all-time leader in games with 118. For Dee Giger, who had never started before, it was literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For Curry (12 points) and Casey (10), who both sat out last season for their involvement in a university-wide cheating scandal, it was a long, winding journey come full circle.
But once the Crimson put the Big Red away — sealing their 23d win, matching the 2010-11 team for the second-most in program history — they checked the scores and realized Princeton had done them a huge favor by posting a 57-46 win.
Yale’s loss gave Harvard (23-4, 10-1) a two-game cushion in the Ivy with three games to play and put the Crimson in position to clinch at least a share of their fourth straight league title on their home floor Saturday night against Columbia. It will be the seniors’ last game at Lavietes.
“We know what’s on the line, but that’s what we prepared for, that’s why we came here,” Casey said. “We came here to dominate and do something special that’s never been done. I know we’ve been saying that for four or five years now, but we’ve been doing it for four or five years now, too. We’re trying to leave a legacy and create a dynasty after we leave. So tomorrow’s important. It’s cool how it could end. We just need to seize the moment.”

Though senior night at Lavietes Pavilion was delayed by a year for Kyle Casey and co-captain Brandyn Curry, taking the court was no less emotional.
Returning from a year-long leave of absence at the beginning of the season—along with classmate Dee Giger—the seniors overcame a slow start to hand Cornell (2-23, 1-10 Ivy) a loss in their second to last career home game. With the 72-47 victory, the Crimson (23-4, 10-1) will play for a share of the Ivy League title on Saturday night against Columbia.
“We said, ‘Can you believe it?’” Curry said. “It’s our last time suiting up at our home floor, but it didn’t hit us until they called our names at the court, and [I] gave Kyle a hug and said, ‘this is it. It’s real now.’ The whole week we were busy with other stuff, so it didn’t hit until it’s here. The moment is here.”
Although it was a matchup between the best and worst teams in the conference, the Crimson and the Big Red looked to be on equal footing through the first five minutes. All four eligible seniors—with the exception of Tom Hamel, who is out for the season with a knee injury—were tapped to start, with Casey, Curry and Giger playing alongside co-captain Laurent Rivard and sophomore guard Siyani Chambers.
The Crimson looked to get it going early with a quick three-point attempt from Giger, but the shot went long. Casey could not finish on a feed under the net after Big Red junior Devin Cherry airballed from deep, and neither team got on the board in the first three minutes. Cornell freshman Darryl Smith finally broke the logjam, driving to the basket on his own and finishing in traffic.
Cornell jumped out to a 4-0 lead and kept Harvard scoreless for close to five minutes, when Chambers ignited the Crimson offense with a long ball of his own.
“We never really went out and practiced with that lineup,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “You expect some things like that, and some nerves. We settled in, and I thought we played with great poise and efficiency throughout.”
Despite opening the game on an 0-of-5 shooting streak, the Crimson finished with a 51.1 percent mark from the field, better than either of last weekend’s games at Penn and Princeton. Led by Chambers, who went 4-of-6 from deep for 15 points on the night, Harvard capitalized on gaps at the perimeter and hit eight threes, its highest mark since its last matchup against Cornell.
Up four with eight minutes to play, the Crimson began to pull away with back-to-back threes from Casey and Chambers. Junior forward Steve Moundou-Missi closed out the half with two free throws to extend Harvard’s lead to 16.
Cornell got back into it after the break, and the two teams exchanged points for the first five minutes of the second half. Senior Dwight Tarwater chipped in six of his 10 points on two three-pointers within two minutes.
But the Crimson regained control with treys from Chambers and Rivard in quick succession, and after the five-minute mark, the Big Red never got within 16 points.
“[Cornell was] still fighting and competing, and they certainly did that at the beginning of the second half,” Amaker said. ‘We had a few possessions there that were sloppy, and we needed to correct them and halt the slide we had. I think it worked. We halted our slide right there.”
Wracked by injury, Cornell dressed only 10 players, all of whom saw playing time. After starting its four eligible seniors, Harvard used 15 of its players. Freshmen Matt Fraschilla and Zena Edosomwan both spent a minute on the court and racked up an assist and a field goal, respectively.
The Crimson dominated the glass, pulling down 34 rebounds to Cornell’s 18, including more than doubling the Big Red’s performance on defense. Junior forward Jonah Travis paced Harvard with five boards, while Smith chipped in four for Cornell.
Despite the mismatch in the standings and a more difficult—and potentially title-deciding—matchup against Columbia on Saturday night, the Crimson prepared for the Big Red no differently.
“Coach always tells us about taking care of the here and now,” Casey said.  “We know that’s an important game, but it wouldn’t have been important if we dropped this one…. It wouldn’t have been seizing the moment. We were focused on what we needed to do."

For the opening spurt of its game against Cornell (2-23, 1-10 Ivy), the Harvard men’s basketball team (23-4, 10-1) played like the last—not first—place team. Four and a half minutes in, a layup by Cornell freshman Darryl Smith put the visitors up 4-0. To that point, the Crimson had two turnovers and five missed shots.
But Harvard quickly restored order—in the next 15 minutes, it would miss just five more times. The Crimson scored on three of its next four trips down the court to take a 7-6 lead with 12 minutes to go in the half.
And once Harvard had found its form, it didn’t lose it again, eventually coming away with a 72-47 victory. The Crimson scored 23 of the next 24 points coming out of the under-12 minute media timeout, taking a 16-point lead into halftime.
For the game, it finished 51 percent from the field, 44 percent from three, and 86 percent from the line—excellent marks on par with those of NBA leading scorer Kevin Durant’s season-long 51-40-88 shooting splits.
“We were efficient on the offensive end, how we shot the ball, how we moved it,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said.
The Big Red cut the lead to 11 four minutes into the second half, but Harvard responded with another run. The Crimson scored eight straight and pushed its lead to 20 with nine minutes to go.
Nine different Harvard players logged double-digit minutes and 10 had a basket as the Crimson dominated on both ends, holding Cornell to 39 percent shooting from the field.
“I thought our defense was outstanding throughout, especially in the first half,” Amaker said. “There [were] a lot of positive things for our group.”
At the start of the game, Amaker continued an annual Senior Night tradition, starting all his seniors. He started seniors Kyle Casey and Dee Giger and co-captains Laurent Rivard and Brandyn Curry alongside sophomore point guard Siyani Chambers. It was the first time the five had ever seen the court together.
The early returns were less than impressive.
Although the unit excelled on the defensive end, holding Cornell to just one fast-break layup, it struggled to score. In four minutes, Harvard missed all five shots it took from the floor.
“They knew that we were going to start our seniors, and I don’t know it that played a role with Dee and Brandyn being out there for that moment,” Amaker said. “Those things happen.”
It wasn’t until junior Wesley Saunders replaced Giger that the offense got going. On his second play, Saunders dished to Chambers for a three-pointer to bring Harvard within one. By the time that Saunders left the court, 13 minutes later, Harvard had taken a 30-13 advantage.
The large graduating class—if not for an injured Tom Hamel, Amaker would have had an entire starting senior unit—was a 180 degree change from last year, where now-assistant coach Christian Webster ’13 was the only graduate honored.
Coming in as a starter, Giger acted the part. As the team’s nominal small forward alongside Rivard and Casey in the frontcourt, Giger provided an unusual starting lineup with a bit of floor spacing. In his five minutes on the floor, Giger took two shots from behind the arc.
“For Dee to get a start…. I am very happy about that,” Amaker said. “We were able to have a nice moment, for all the seniors but also for Dee in particular.”
Both times Giger got off a good look, but was unable to knock it down. After the game, Amaker said that he was happy to see the senior—who has now made only one of nine threes on the season—take the shots.
“He was open [and] he’s a shooter,” Amaker said. “I thought he was going to make them.”
Although Giger sat for the next 34 minutes, he took the court one last time late in the second half. He played just a minute more before spending the last 85 seconds on the bench.
“It was good to see those guys out there and able to partake in a moment like that,” Amaker said. “Having done it myself, you remember that for a long time—for a lifetime.”

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard men's basketball team celebrated Senior Night with a 72-47 win over Cornell Friday, moving itself into position to clinch at least a share of its fourth straight Ivy League championship along the way.
The victory improved Harvard to 23-4 overall, 10-1 against the Ancient Eight, and paired with Yale's 57-46 loss at Princeton puts the Crimson two games ahead of the Eli with three to play. A win on Saturday would guarantee Harvard at least a share of the conference crown, while a win and a Yale loss would give the Crimson the title outright.
Siyani Chambers scored 15 points and dished out four assists to help Harvard to the victory, shooting 4-of-6 from three-point range while also coming away with two steals. Brandyn Curry turned in 12 points, four assists and two steals while Kyle Casey added 10 points and four boards.
Harvard shot 51.1 percent (23-45) on the night despite beginning the game 0-of-5 from the field, and dominated the glass with a 34-18 rebounding margin. Cornell, which shot just 39.1 percent (18-46), was led by Darryl Smith's 14 points and Dwight Tarwater's 10.
It took Harvard nearly five minutes to get on the scoreboard as Chambers' three-pointer with 15:17 on the clock cut into Cornell's early lead, 4-3. Steve Moundou-Missi gave the Crimson its first advantage, 5-4, but the Big Red answered back and went in front thanks to a Tarwater jumper with 11:40 to play, 8-7.
It was all Harvard from there as the Crimson outscored Cornell 27-10 to take a 34-18 lead into the break. Curry's and-one sparked the run with Casey's emphatic slam in transition moving the score to 12-8. Back-to-back three's for Casey and Chambers moved the score to 20-13, and an and-one for Evan Cummins gave Harvard its first double-digit lead, 25-13.
Curry scored five straight points to extend the margin to 32-13 as the Crimson went into the break on top by 16, 34-18. Curry led Harvard with eight points at the break while Chambers added six and four assists. Harvard closed the half shooting 11-of-16 after the 0-of-5 start and outrebounded the Big Red 15-8.
Cornell came out of the intermission with a 5-2 spurt to cut its deficit to 34-23. The margin remained at 11 as Chambers and Tarwater exchanged triples, before a turnaround jumper by Moundou-Missi keyed a 12-3 stretch as Harvard began to pull away. Laurent Rivard and Chambers connected from long-range on back-to-back possessions to get the crowd going, and Curry got to the rim in transition following a Moundou-Missi block to make it 10 straight points. Curry went the length of the court again after corralling a rebound, putting the Crimson's lead at 20 points for the first time, 53-35.
Harvard extended its edge to 64-41 with a Casey and-one and reverse layup from Agunwa Okolie. Rivard's second triple answered a three-point play by Darryl Smith, and three free throws by Jonah Travis made it a 70-44 game. Zena Edosomwan scored Harvard's final points of the night with his first career dunk as the Crimson took the game by the final score of 72-47.
Game Notes: Harvard's win, paired with Yale's 57-46 loss at Princeton, gives the Crimson a chance to earn at least a share of the Ivy League title on Saturday with a win, and a chance to take the title outright with a victory and Yale loss … Should Harvard clinch at least a share of the Ivy League title, it would mark the first time a team has won four straight Ivy league championships since Penn did so from 1993-96 … Harvard's 23 wins are tied for the second most in program history (26 in 2011-12) … Harvard began the game shooting 0-of-5 from the field but closed the half 11-of-16 … Kyle Casey scored 10 points to move into 16th place on Harvard's career list (1,202 points) … Laurent Rivard appeared in his 118th career game, tying Oliver McNally '12 for the program record … Harvard went with a new lineup for Senior Night, starting seniors Kyle Casey, Brandyn Curry, Dee Giger and Laurent Rivard along with sophomore Siyani Chambers.

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