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Men's hoops sees first Ivy loss—to Harvard

Regardless of the circumstances, tonight’s Yale-Harvard showdown in men’s basketball would have felt special. But the stakes couldn’t have been higher. Yale entered the game leading the Ivy League with a perfect (and unprecedented) 5–0 conference record, and Harvard found itself one game back in the standings, a rare position for a team that has won four straight Ivy titles. The atmosphere lived up to the billing in a packed John J. Lee Amphitheater in New Haven, but the energy didn’t transfer to the Bulldogs during a sluggish first half. Despite halftime improvements and a valiant comeback in the final minute, the Bulldogs fell 52–50. Harvard and Yale are now tied atop the Ivy League with eight regular season games left to play.
Yale shot just 13.6 percent from the field during the first half, making just three field goals. Neither Justin Sears ’16 nor Javier Duren ’15 scored from the field. The only highlights came on the defensive end. With six minutes to play in the first half, Sears rejected a long jumper by Harvard’s Steve Moundou-Missi deep into the student section, sending the crowd into a deafening frenzy. The strong defense frustrated Harvard and kept Yale within reach. The half ended with Harvard up only five — although the score was 16–11, a halftime score perhaps better suited for The Game than a game between two of the Ivy League’s flashiest offenses.
“We were very disappointed that [Yale] shot 13.6 percent and we were only up five,” said Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker. “We were lucky they missed as many as they did in the first half.”
Signs of life emerged after halftime, as Duren buried a three to kick off the Yale second half scoring. The Bulldogs doubled their offensive output from the first half in just four and a half minutes. Harvard also picked up the pace behind senior Wesley Saunders, who led all scorers with 16 points. The two teams traded threes for much of the second half, and Yale shot 8 for 16 from behind the arc during the second half to stick around. Harvard continued to dominate inside, scoring 28 points inside the paint to just 12 for Yale.
But the result was in question until the final seconds. Trailing by eight with just over a minute to play, Yale’s full-court press produced a steal, which Duren converted into points with a long three. On the following in-bounds pass, Harvard tossed the ball out of play, giving the ball back to the Bulldogs. Jack Montague ’16 had the chance to cut the lead to two, but his attempt fell short, and Yale was forced to foul on ensuing Harvard possessions. The back-and-forth brought Yale within two with just seven seconds remaining, as an off-balance three by Montague kept hope alive. The final dagger came from Saunders, who coldly nailed two free throws to seal the win. Montague finished with 11 points, and Matt Townsend ’15 had 10 points and was a reliable option inside. Duren hit the 1,000-point mark for his career on his final shot of the game.
The rematch at Harvard will come on Friday, March 6, during the final weekend of the Ivy season. Yale takes on Penn and Princeton during next weekend’s road trip.
“We still have a good team. We’re tied for first place right now. We knew coming in that it would be a long season,” said Duren after the game. “We’re going to come back Monday and get back to work.”


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under men's basketball, basketball, Harvard
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