Harvard Men’s Basketball Review
Aiken Leads in Tough Wins Against Columbia and Penn
By ELIZABETH GUMMER
With 6 wins and 2 losses in their conference season thus far, the Harvard Men’s Basketball team has its sights set on making the NCAA March Madness Tournament this year. The team missed the tournament by a disappointing 3 points (68-65) in the 2017-2018 season, in which they were nudged out by the University of Pennsylvania in the final game of the Ivy League Conference Championships. Harvard has matched up against the nation’s 68 best only 5 times since the first NCAA men’s basketball tournaments began in 1939. Their latest appearance was in 2015, capping off a 4-year streak of qualifying after a 66-year absence from the tournament.
Harvard started their Ivy League season on January 12th at Dartmouth. Juniors Christian Juzang (#22), Chris Lewis (#00), and Justin Bassey (#20) gave Dartmouth a run for their money, with Juzang scoring a near best 20 points in the game and Lewis and Bassey both getting 6 rebounds a piece. Though a great effort, their play was not quite enough for Harvard to claim the win: Harvard closed out their first game with a loss of 81-63. Knowing what they had to do to get the W against Dartmouth, the Harvard men showed the visiting team what they had missed 2 weeks earlier. Juzang led in points again, scoring 19, to bring the team to a 5-point victory (64-59).
Continuing the next weekend at home, Harvard went head to head against Yale on Friday night at 7pm. Only students who arrived before tip-off were able to score tickets to witness the long standing Harvard-Yale rivalry game, as the supply of student tickets had been exhausted early in the night. With Harvard holding a consistent lead over the Yale team, the packed stands brought enough spectator energy to encourage the team to finish with a 65-49 win over the Bulldogs. The following night the Harvard Crimson again came away with the win, this time against Brown, raising their Ivy win loss record to 3-1 with a score of 68-47.
Home for the 3rd weekend in a row, Harvard gave the crowd a spectacular, although stressful showing. In their first game against Columbia this season, the Crimson led through the majority of the first half, and closed out the second quarter at a tight 37-36. Columbia quickly took the lead, coming back with 2 points in the first 15 seconds of the second half. The lead then proceeded to switch 10 times over the next 19 minutes, with Bryce Aiken (#11) sinking a jump shot to bring Harvard into the lead with only 46 seconds to go. After 2 successful foul shots from Robert Baker (#35) with 5 seconds left on the clock, fans in the student section began to pack their bags and clear the stadium.
But to the crowd’s awe, Columbia came back with a 3-point buzzer beater to bring the score to 69-69, sending the teams into overtime. The 5 minutes of overtime were coming to a close with Columbia leading 81-78 before Aiken sunk the 2nd buzzer beater of the game. Both teams gained 8 points in the second overtime, again closing with a tied score. In the end Harvard came out successful, finishing with a 98-96 victory over Columbia. Aiken scored a career-best 44 points during the 3OT game, scoring all 12 Harvard points in the first overtime, and continuing to score another 8 over the next two. The next night, in their 2nd game of the weekend, Harvard took on Cornell for the first time this season. Coming down from the high of the night before, Cornell overtook Harvard’s lead from the first half to win the game 67-61.
On the road this past weekend, Harvard’s first stop was in Princeton, NJ. Bassey took the first points of the game, scoring 8 points over the course of the first half. The teams went back and forth over the beginning of the second half, but closed out with Harvard holding a solid lead up until the 78-69 finish. In their Saturday night game, a steady back and forth of points made for a great show in Philadelphia. Penn held a 5 point lead over the Crimson men with 1 minute to go, but in heroic style, Bryce Aiken scored twice in rapid fire to bring the teams into overtime. Sealing the deal with a 75-68 finish, the Harvard men returned home undefeated.
This weekend the Harvard men will head back on the road again, taking on the teams of Brown and Yale. Having won against both teams earlier in the season, Harvard will be hoping to better their 6-2 Ivy mark, and put themselves in the best possible position to secure their spot in the NCAA tournament next month.
Elizabeth Gummer ‘21 (email@example.com) will continue to root loudly from the stands.