While the Bulldogs’ 69–56 victory over Dartmouth on Saturday is the game the men’s basketball team likely wants to remember most from this weekend, Friday’s heartbreaking 82–79 overtime loss to archrival Harvard is the game that will be remembered.
With 13 ties, 12 lead changes, big plays from big-time players and unexpected late-game heroics, the contest was everything one would expect from the long-time rivals. Harvard’s Jeremy Lin (18 points, four assists), one of 11 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award given to the nation’s top point guard, and Yale captain Alex Zampier ’10 (32 points, three steals), dueled throughout the night, but the most crucial performances of the evening came from their supporting casts.
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Forward Greg Mangano ’12 drained three three-pointers and totaled 19 points, adding eight rebounds and five blocks to spark the Bulldogs. For Harvard, freshman Brandyn Curry had a perfect shooting night, going seven-for-seven from the field (including two three-pointers) and three-for-three from the line. And it was Curry who took over when Lin fouled out with 1:15 to go in the second half, his team down one.
At that point, free throws from Mangano and fellow forward Mike Sands ’11 opened the Eli lead to three with 41 seconds to go. With Curry running the offense, the ball cycled to freshman Dee Giger in the corner. Giger, seeing his first action of the contest, drained a three to pull the Crimson even at 65–65 with 25 seconds left.
Sands was fouled on the other end and made just one of two from the line. Then, with two seconds left, guard Porter Braswell ’11 fouled the Crimson’s Oliver McNally, sending him to the line with a chance to win the game.
With the crowd of 2,091 at John J. Lee Amphitheater on their feet, McNally missed the first, setting up a must-make second free-throw, which he coolly drained to send the game to overtime.
The back-and-forth contest continued in the extra period — with 3:18 to go the game was still knotted up. Kyle Casey (20 points) answered a Mangano free throw with two of his own to give the Crimson a one-point advantage, which teammate Christian Webster promptly extended to four, nailing a big three-pointer off a feed from McNally.
Zampier responded with a layup at the other end to cut the lead to two with 2:06 to go, but a Mangano foul sent Casey to the line where he capitalized, making the score 77–73 with just under a minute left. Braswell chopped the deficit in half with a layup off a key weak-side rebound. Needing to stop the clock, the Bulldogs fouled right away, but Harvard knocked down free throw after free throw to maintain the lead.
When two Zampier free throws cut the lead to one with 14 seconds remaining, it was Giger who again hit the big shot, draining two foul shots to extend the lead to three.
That left the Elis with one last chance, and though Zampier found himself with two decent looks at the game-tying three in the closing seconds, he was unable to hit either, sending Harvard back to Cambridge with the crucial league win.
“It was a great college basketball game,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “Our team fought hard. We had a couple of stretches where we didn’t focus, especially at the start of the second half.”
Besides the outstanding play of Mangano, one bright spot for the Bulldogs in the win was the 158th steal of Zampier’s career. A takeaway midway through the first made him Yale’s all-time record holder.
“I told him after the game — Zampier was tremendous,” Harvard coach and former Michigan headman Tommy Amaker said. “He’s great with the ball, he can create his own shot, he’s crafty, and he’s automatic from the line — just a tough kid to play against.”
But Jones said he’s seen better from his captain.
“[Zampier] had a decent game offensively, but he forced a few shots,” Jones said. “Sometimes he tries too take too much of the offense on his own shoulders.”
Zampier and the Bulldogs had no time to mope, as Dartmouth took the court at John J. Lee Amphitheater just 24 hours later for an equally crucial conference matchup. Adding to the difficulty of bouncing back from Friday’s draining loss was the fact that forward Jordan Gibson ’10 was unable to play due to injury.
Friday night’s loss seemed fresh in Yale’s minds throughout the first half of Saturday’s game, as last-place Dartmouth shot 48.5 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes and opened up a 37–29 lead going into intermission. The Big Green held a 46–36 lead with 14 to go, but the Bulldogs responded with a 12–1 run, keyed by a Raffi Mantilla ’11 offensive rebound that set up a three-point-play from Sands.
Zampier followed up Friday night’s performance with 11 points in just 23 minutes of action Saturday, but other Elis stepped up to ride Yale’s second-half run to the 69–56 win. Sands scored 20 points on 7–11 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds, while Mangano hit double figures yet again, scoring 12 to go along with five boards. Center Paul Nelson ’10 added nine points and two blocks in 23 minutes of action.
Mantilla scored five on the evening as part of a well-balanced Eli scoring attack that saw guards Braswell and Austin Morgan ’13 each score six, in addition to four points and four rebounds from forward Rhett Anderson ’12.
“It was very important to get everyone involved,” Morgan said. “We are at our best when we are sharing the ball and making plays for the other guys on our team.”
The win marks the fourth straight weekend split for the Bulldogs, who now sit in sole possession of fourth in the Ivy League behind Harvard (17–5, 6–2) and ahead of Penn (4–16, 3–3) who pulled off a huge upset of league-leader Cornell (21–4, 7–1) on Friday evening.
The Bulldogs will get a chance to distance themselves from the Quakers when they travel to Philadelphia to battle Penn at the Palestra this coming Saturday. That game will be preceded by a Friday night duel with second-place Princeton (14–6, 5–1) in Princeton, N.J.