Men's Basketball Routs Cornell, 67-44, in Ithaca

Robert F Worley

Siyani Chambers, seen here in earlier action, put up six points and six assists in the Crimson's 67-44 victory over the Big Red.

On Friday night, it took about 49 minutes of game time for the Harvard men’s basketball team (20-4, 7-1 Ivy) to seal its victory over Columbia (15-10, 4-4). On Saturday night at Cornell (2-20, 1-7) it took 17 minutes to lock away an eventual 67-44 victory.

With 3:08 remaining in the first half, a quick score by senior forward Kyle Casey gave the Crimson a double-digit lead that it would not relinquish. While it took over two and a half hours for the final buzzer to ring on Friday, the contest in Ithaca spanned only an hour and change.

And, while Friday night’s matchup came down to free throws, a clutch three-pointer, and a referee’s whistle, the outcome of Saturday’s game was settled before 9 p.m.

“[We] made sure we were going up to Ithaca without any thoughts of us being fatigued or tired,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “It wasn’t going to be a thought in our minds. We made sure we talked to them this week [about how] it is natural for them to feel mental fatigue, as well…. We thought they wrapped their heads around it well.”

On a night where mental strength was key, the Crimson turned to co-captain Brandyn Curry to lead the way. The veteran made his first jump shot of the night less than five minutes into the contest and didn’t look back. He finished the game with a team-high 14 points, notching five assists—one more than the entire Cornell team combined.


Harvard broke away late in the first half, going on a 14-6 run to take command of the gaame. The spurt was started by none other than Curry.

After the Big Red’s Jake Matthews missed a shot from deep, Casey grabbed the board and threw the outlet pass to junior wing Wesley Saunders, who pushed the ball ahead to sophomore Agunwa Okolie. Okolie gave the rock right back to Saunders, who sent it to Curry in the right corner. Curry wasted no time, knocking down the three to extend Harvard’s lead to eight.

One Cornell free throw later, Curry ran a give-and-go with sophomore point guard Siyani Chambers, with Curry finishing the play on a two-dribble floater from the right baseline. Curry was up to nine points—Cornell was at 10.

“Brandyn is stepping forward for us and he is doing things that a senior guard must do,” Amaker said. “There is a confidence factor that he brings. He is playing an all around game where he is making shots, he is driving, [and] he is also defending. Brandyn is being Brandyn.”

And so it continued. Despite a 6-0 run from Cornell to cut the lead to 10, 28-18, back-to-back layups from Casey and Saunders, followed by consecutive three-pointers from co-captain Laurent Rivard and Chambers, gave the Crimson a 14-point lead heading into intermission.

Just as it only took a few minutes for the Crimson to jump out to a dominant lead in the first half, so it only took 1:12 of the second period for Harvard to carry out its trademark alley-oop, putting the game away with almost an entire half to play.

Following a Rivard rebound, Chambers took the ball on the left wing, waiting for a cut from Casey. On cue, Casey beat his man backdoor, streaked to the basket, and converted the pass to a decisive slam in the basket to give the Crimson its biggest lead of the night at 18. The dunk was the 94th of Casey’s collegiate career.

The Big Red would not come much closer the rest of the way, despite a solid stat line from guard Nolan Cressler. The sophomore had 17 points, sinking three pointers at a 71.4 clip on the night. Overall, however, he shot only 6-of-13 from the field.

“I thought we played really well defensively,” Amaker said. “You can see that with the numbers and we had good balance…. [Cressler] is a good player, he makes difficult shots and gets threes in transition. Those are the players we have to lock into.”

In addition to solid shooting efforts from its starters, Okolie had an efficient performance off the Crimson bench. At the 10:32 mark of the second period, the sophomore grabbed a loose ball on the right side of the paint. With the shot clock running down, Okolie put up a rainbow fade-away jumper, which swished into the basket with just one second in the possession left to spare.

Three minutes later, a mistake by Big Red center David Onuorah led to a Harvard fast break. Curry passed the ball ahead to Rivard, and the rock proceeded to swing from Rivard to Saunders, back to Curry, and then to junior forward Steve Moundou-Missi, who lobbed the ball across the paint to Okolie. Okolie caught the ball, gathered himself, and stuffed it home.

Overall, Okolie went 3-of-3 from the floor, one of five Crimson players to shoot at least 50 percent on the night, two of whom were off the bench.

“We thought coming into this weekend that we needed to go back to what made us good [in previous weekends]…and that was playing different bodies and different guys, and using our bench and our balance,” Amaker said. “We need [our bench] guys to play for us…[We need them to be] healthy and contributing off the bench for us. They did very well tonight.”

—Staff writer Juliet Spies-Gans can be reached at


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