The Yale men’s basketball team defeated Harvard 67–55 in Cambridge on Saturday night, moving to 8–0 in conference play and keeping the team in firm command of the top spot in the Ivy League.
The victory, the team’s 12th consecutive, propels the Bulldogs (17–5, 8–0 Ivy) one step closer to the program-record of 13 straight wins, set in 1906–07. In contrast, after just a season removed from splitting the championship with the Bulldogs, Harvard (10–14, 2–6) is now one Yale win away from being eliminated from title contention with six games remaining for each team.
“At the beginning of the game I thought it was going back-and-forth, maybe Harvard had more control,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “They got off to a good start and we couldn’t stop them scoring to start the game. Then we settled down and eventually got some good stops and were able to score on offense.”
The Elis opened the game looking slightly sluggish, falling into a quick 4–0 hole and missing five of the team’s first six shots. After guard Nick Victor ’16 made the team’s first basket, the Bulldogs settled down and began to work in the paint, where 10 of Yale’s first 12 points came.
The officials called nine fouls on the Crimson, sending forward Justin Sears ’16 to the line three times and guard Anthony Dallier ’17 once. Dallier started in place of captain and guard Jack Montague ’16 for the second consecutive night, as Montague was not with the team this weekend due to “personal reasons,” according to the team.
Dallier and Sears, who scored 14 points in an efficient 20 minutes of work in the opening period, combined to go 6–7 from the charity stripe in the first half. Harvard as a team did not attempt a free throw in the half.
Yale built its lead not only from the foul line but through its defense: the Bulldogs forced seven turnovers and turned them into eight points.
The Crimson shot 12–29 from the field in the first half, with four of those baskets coming from bench player Patrick Steeves, who shot 4–6 to pick up a team-high eight first-half points. Zena Edosomwan, Harvard’s leading scorer, was held to just six points on 3–9 shooting from the field.
A 14–4 run near the midpoint of the first half turned a 17–16 Harvard advantage into a 30–21 Yale lead, thanks in part to some solid contributions — including a tip-in, a steal and an offensive rebound — from bench contributor Blake Reynolds ’19. Yale took the lead at 8:08 remaining in the first half after a Sears layup and would not relinquish it for the remainder of the game.
With a 37–26 lead entering the locker room, the Bulldogs were able to keep pressure on the Crimson in the second half.
Sears sank two free throws to provide Yale with a 14-point advantage with 14:18 left to play. The Elis stretched the margin to as much as 18 points in the second half, following a free throw from Sears and a layup from Victor with just over five minutes left in the contest.
The Bulldogs, however, were limited due to foul trouble in the final period: forward Brandon Sherrod ’16 picked up four fouls by the 7:55 mark of the second half, and Victor, who registered seven points but also tallied 12 rebounds and six assists, fouled out with 1:49 remaining.
Harvard, which has struggled mightily at the charity stripe this season, was not able to effectively convert the Bulldogs’ fouls into points. The Crimson sport a 58.4 free throw percentage on the season, and tonight’s game did nothing to raise that mark, as the team shot 9–18 from the line, with Edosomwan finishing 2–6.
Edosomwan, who was held in check in the opening stanza, did finish the contest on a strong note, scoring nine of his team’s 12 points in the final seven minutes of the game. He amassed 18 points in total, though rival big man Sears led all scorers with 21 points — the second consecutive night the Yale senior has scored 21.
Sears currently ranks third in the league in scoring during conference play, averaging 16.6 points per Ivy contest.
Sears and the Bulldogs will defend their first-place standing next Friday at Princeton, who defeated Columbia on Saturday night in overtime. Princeton’s only Ivy conference loss of the season came against Yale on Jan. 30 in New Haven.