PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Perhaps late comebacks are just the way of Harvard men’s basketball.
For the fifth game in a row, the Crimson entered the locker room down at the half. Much like it has in those previous games, however, Harvard came right back late.
Following a first half shootout that saw 15 lead changes and ended with a three point Brown lead, the Crimson (13-7, 5-2 Ivy League) hung in despite the Bears (11-12, 2-5) leading by as many as 10 points in the second half.
Harvard’s comeback came about rather innocuously. Following a three pointer from senior Steven Spieth that pushed Brown’s lead to eight points with just over 11 minutes left on the clock, co-captain Siyani Chambers came back and hit a jumper from the elbow as the shot clock expired.
They would be the first two points of an 18-1 run that put the Crimson on top for good.
During the run the Bears would be held without a field goal for a period of nearly five minutes. Over that span, Chambers chipped in six of his 15, senior forward Zena Edosomwan added four points and a block and freshman Bryce Aiken and Justin Bassey each contributed a three to give Harvard the 87-74 win in Providence
For a Harvard squad that prides itself on its depth, its second period heroics came through impressive individual performances from players who entered the game off the bench—Aiken scored 18 of his game high 23 in the second half alone while Edosomwan added all of his eight points and nine rebounds in the same frame. Overall, Harvard’s bench outscored Brown’s 36-11.
“I thought our bench was the difference for us,” head coach Tommy Amaker said. “We’ve said it all along, if we have a good bench and good balance, then we like who we are as a team and I thought tonight it certainly played out that way.”
What ended as a late runaway win for the Crimson began as a much closer affair—through the first ten minutes of play, the two teams traded leads 12 times with neither leading by more than three over the same span.
After missing his first three shots of the night, freshman Seth Towns proved to be the difference maker for Harvard midway through the first—scoring 10 in a row at one point and 12 in the half, he gave Harvard its largest lead of the first period at five.
“Really I’ve gotta give all that credit to my teammates,” Towns said. “They were finding me in open spots and I was just trying to rebound and get on the offensive glass. Everybody else made it easier.”
For the Crimson, however, turnovers marred what was a strong shooting half, coughing up the ball 11 times in the first frame. The Crimson corrected this in the second half, however, only losing the ball three times in the last 20 minutes.
Despite the strong defense late, Harvard simply couldn’t slow down Spieth. He finished the game with 21 points (13 of which came in the second half), four rebounds, and four assists.
“[Speith’s] crafty, and he’s also a senior,” Amaker said. “He’s been around, he knows how to change pace and how to use angles, and how to draw fouls. That’s just experience and being a savvy, crafty player. He’s always been a very impressive player and tonight he was a guy that we were struggling to defend.”
For Harvard, it was perhaps its performance at the line that made the difference.
The Crimson went 23-of-24 from the charity stripe. After going into the bonus just over 10 minutes into the second half, 13 of Harvard’s last 28 points came at the line. Meanwhile, the Bears struggled at the stripe, going 18-of-29 on the game.
While Harvard has struggled in the past from the line, one of the strengths on Friday night was the ability to get its best shooters to the stripe. Aiken hit 7-of-7 from the line, while Chambers and freshmen Justin Bassey each added four. Meanwhile, freshman Chris Lewis and Edosomwan—two of the team’s worst free throw shooters—had none of the 24 attempts.
“It took us a while to get going but I think you know throughout the lead changes we just stayed consistent and we had to play Harvard basketball and that’s what we came out and did in the second half,” Aiken said. “We played hard, we got stops, played together, ball movement was much better, and we put the ball in the basket and we defended.”
—Staff writer Troy Boccelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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