For the second straight night in New Haven, it appeared as if fans would crown guard Alex Copeland ’19 Yale’s hero.
After scoring his 1,000th career point on near-perfect shooting Friday night against Dartmouth, Copeland found the ball in his hands with 10 seconds to play against Harvard (14–9, 7–3 Ivy) and the Bulldogs (18–5, 8–2) down by three. His pull-up triple with seven seconds left tied the game at 86 and sent a student section that stood all forty minutes of the game into an energetic frenzy.
The Elis rushed back to play defense, and as students celebrated with their white rally towels, Harvard point guard Bryce Aiken hurried up the court, putting the ball through his legs twice and cutting towards the hoop before pulling up for a deep two. His fade-away jumper evaded the right arm of guard Trey Phills ’19 — Yale’s best perimeter defender — before finding the bottom of the net as time expired to secure Harvard an 88–86 win.
“We tried to get a quick shot, and Bryce Aiken came down,” Copeland said. “Trey played good defense on him, and he hit a really tough one… He’s a really talented player, one of the quickest guys that I’ve played against in a while.”
Guard Miye Oni ’20 hit five straight three-pointers to start the game, but foul trouble limited him to just eight minutes in the second half. The game featured 17 lead changes, 10 ties and 27 free throws for the Crimson, opportunities that gave Harvard 22 points at the free throw line and frustrated head coach James Jones and the Bulldogs. Jones seemed officially displeased with the officiating after the game.
A full student section in white Bulldog gear propelled Yale to an energetic start to the contest. The Bulldogs made 10 of their first 11 shot attempts, and Yale raced to a 24–10 lead in just six minutes and six seconds. The 14-point advantage was the Bulldogs’ largest of the game.
With guard Justin Bassey removed from the lineup due to an injury he sustained early in Harvard’s Friday night loss to Brown, Harvard started guards Bryce Aiken, Noah Kirkwood, and Rio Haskett, as well as forwards Kale Catchings and Mason Forbes, rotating 9 players throughout the game’s first half. Crimson head coach Tommy Amaker opted to start three gritty freshmen — Kirkwood, Catchings and Forbes — in favor of Harvard’s junior veterans, guard Christian Juzang and forwards Chris Lewis and Robert Baker.
Aiken, who returned to action for the Crimson in January after a knee injury ended his sophomore season last February, quickly assumed a leading role for the visitors. The 6-foot junior, who is averaging a team-high 21.6 points a game, scored 13 in the first half and finished with a game-high 28.
Second-half foul trouble glued Oni to the Yale bench for much of the second half. After picking up his third foul just over three minutes into the second half, he sat for roughly six minutes straight. After just 16 seconds of re-entering the game, referees called an offensive foul on Oni, his fourth of the contest, that angered the junior and his team, who witnessed the play just a few feet from their bench.
“I didn’t like [the call],” Jones said. “It’s a tough one. He had just gotten back in the game, and it’s one of those things that ballplayers do to fool officials, and they got a great call because that put Miye on the bench. That takes away from us offensively and defensively.”
Trading buckets down the stretch, Yale found themselves up by seven with a little over five minutes left in the contest after Copeland made two free throws. However, the talented Crimson refused to back down. A slam from forward Chris Lewis and a tough pull-up three from guard Christian Juzang cut the Eli lead to just two. A steal and an emphatic two-handed flush from Oni, who just reentered the game, ignited the John J. Lee Amphitheater’s electric crowd.
However, Harvard remained unphased, pushing the ball up and getting Aiken to the freethrow line. Catchings caught fire as well, hitting a corner three after sending home a two-handed dunk, giving Harvard a one-point lead with 27 seconds left in the game.
On the next play, Oni registered a loose-ball foul, collecting his fifth of the night after Catchings blocked his layup. The foul sent forward Danilo Djuricic to the line with fifteen seconds left, where he drained two free throws to increase the Crimson lead to three. Copeland’s game-saving triple followed on the next play, and Aiken’s buzzer-beater cemented the final at 88–86.
Harvard has won the last six regular season meetings between the two rivals.
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