By Matt Noonan
CAMBRIDGE, MA – In case you didn’t know, the Harvard University men’s basketball team has now won 19 games this season, and is 5-0 in the Ivy League. They’re also ranked 23rd in the nation, but against Cornell University, they appeared beatable and vulnerable.
The Big Red forced the Crimson to play careless-free basketball for a majority of Friday’s contest at Lavietes Pavilion, as Harvard finished the game with 16 turnovers, eight offensive rebounds, and 26 missed shots.
Yet, those particular mistakes didn’t faze Tommy Amaker’s squad, who maneuvered a way past Cornell, 71-60.
“I just felt like we were better than what we were showing,” said a frustrated Amaker. “I was perplexed and disappointed in how we came out of the half, and that’s how we played. And again, I’m not taking anything away from Cornell, they’re doing outstanding things, but I just thought that we were better than that and I was disappointed in how we came out and handled the ball.”
Following the opening tip, both squads played back and fourth basketball for roughly six minutes until Harvard freshman Jonah Travis sank his second free throw to give the Crimson a 10-9 advantage.
“We were able to get some stops at times during the game, but we didn’t take advantage of those opportunities offensively,” said Cornell head coach Bill Courtney, when asked to discuss the lackluster play of both squads in the first half.
The Crimson never relinquished their lead, as it ballooned to 30-18, thanks to junior Kyle Casey, (13 points, six rebounds) and sophomore Laurent Rivard, (16 points) who finished the first half with two trifectas and three free throws.
Cornell’s offense attempted to chip away at the deficit before halftime, but only mustered six points before entering their locker room trailing Harvard, 38-24.
Once the second half began, the Big Red appeared rejuvenated and focused, as senior Drew Ferry sank a three-pointer on their first offensive possession before junior Jonathan Gray stripped the ball from Casey, and raced down court for a layup, which cut the lead to 38-29.
“I thought they did some things harder and better in the second half, but certainly our defense is better than what we displayed in the last 20 minutes,” said Amaker.
Harvard answered literally 40 seconds later when Wright recorded a powerful dunk that electrified his offense to go on a 19-11 run.
Junior Christian Webster put the game out of reach when he knocked down a three-pointer with 5:57 remaining in the second half, which preserved Harvard’s perfect record at home.
“We knew you’re not going to hold a team like [Harvard] that’s good, [and] you’re not going to continuing to keep stopping [them]. We had our chance, and we kind of didn’t take advantage of it,” said Courtney.
Despite the loss, Cornell’s freshman Shonn Miller recorded his 100th defensive rebound, while senior Chris Wroblewski earned his 101st assist of the season.
Harvard will return to the court on Saturday when they host Columbia, while Cornell will head to Dartmouth; both games are slated for a 7:00pm tip-off.
“We have to get better. I’m not quite sure what that could be right now for us with a home game, and kind of where we are, and [I'm] hopeful that we can get ready to go for tomorrow,” said Amaker.