The final 11 seconds of last season’s Yale–Harvard men’s basketball game made its way to the screens of sports fans across the nation in February 2019.
“It’s Harvard–Yale,” ESPN wrote to its more than 30 million Twitter followers after Crimson guard Bryce Aiken drilled a midrange buzzer-beater to lift Harvard to an 88–86 win. “Of course it ends like this.”
Aiken’s game-winning shot fell less than eight seconds after Yale guard Alex Copeland ’19 tied the game with a three-pointer. The finish was as exciting as the game-winning three-pointer Roxy Barahman ’20 sunk against the Harvard women three weekends earlier, though this one was devastating for the Elis and had a full house of supporters at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
The Elis had their revenge a few weeks after the close defeat, when Yale clenched the Ivy Madness championship win in March. But now augmented with first-year guard August Mahoney ’23 and forward EJ Jarvis ’23, the Bulldogs (16–4, 4–0 Ivy) are seeking a regular-season victory against the Crimson (13-6, 2-2) this Friday at 5 p.m. No current Eli has taken down its Cambridge rival during the regular season, as Harvard has beaten Yale in six straight regular season games. Dartmouth (7-12, 0-4), which lost two competitive games to the Crimson to open Ivy League play, caps the weekend with a visit to JLA Saturday at 7 p.m.
“[The Harvard game] means a lot,” forward Paul Atkinson ’21 said. “That’s one of the teams in the Ivy League that I haven’t beaten in the regular season. I think nobody in that locker room has actually beaten them in the regular season … Last year we had a game that they took from us, and I think it’s just one of those things where we want to come out there and play our best game.”
Head coach James Jones, sitting to Atkinson’s left after Yale’s 86–71 win over Cornell last Saturday, seemed almost sure Atkinson had spoken incorrectly.
“I’ll have to go back and check that,” he said.
In light of Yale’s two-game win streak against the Crimson in postseason appearances, the losing streak is less significant. But though it might be hard to believe, it’s true. Forward Jordan Bruner ’20, captain and guard Eric Monroe ’20 and forward Austin Williams ’20 have one final shot to beat the Crimson in front of classmates and friends — the majority of students were off campus over spring break during the Bulldogs’ mid-March win at Ivy Madness. After last year’s wild finish, the Elis seek revenge amidst another whiteout and an atmosphere that can be rare at JLA.
“It was just a pleasure to take part in that game [last year], just to witness it, to see people competing at that level, see all the big shots being made,” guard Michael Feinberg ’22 said. “I’m just excited we get another chance to play them again in our home gym. I remember the environment, the atmosphere with all the people dressed in white. It was surreal. It was unlike any other environment we’ve encountered. We’ve been to Duke, we’ve been to Clemson, we’ve been all over the country and we had a crazy gym at our home gym.”
Feinberg — whose older brother, guard Robbie Feinberg, played for the Crimson last year before graduating in May 2019 — said that while he does not fully view Harvard as an archenemy, last season’s meetings and the two schools’ extensive history makes Friday’s game hold “a little bit more” weight than other ones.
Yale is expecting another sellout Friday. As of Wednesday afternoon, 885 tickets remained for Friday’s game, an employee at the Yale Athletics ticket office said. At least 200 remained available for online purchase Thursday afternoon. Both weekend matchups also mark Alumni Weekend for the program.
Aiken’s injury remains a major question heading into this weekend and the remainder of Ivy League play. The senior guard, who scored 38 points in the Ivy Madness final last spring, has appeared in only seven games this year, averaging a team-high 16.7 points per game. According to the Crimson, Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said last week that Aiken practiced all week before Harvard’s rematch with Dartmouth in late January, but did not feel “right” the morning of the matchup. He did not appear in either of the Crimson’s games last weekend — which resulted in two close losses at Penn and Princeton.
Instead, sophomore guard Noah Kirkwood paced Harvard in a one-point loss to Princeton Saturday, scoring 21 points to supplement the Crimson’s core group of starting seniors: guards Christian Juzang and Justin Bassey and forwards Chris Lewis and Robert Baker.
“Obviously, Princeton’s been really tough,” Jones said Saturday. “They’re undefeated right now as are we, and they took care of their home court as we did this weekend.”
Dartmouth also fell to the Tigers last weekend, losing 66–44. Junior forward Chris Knight, junior guard Aaryn Rai and senior guard James Foye have started all 19 games for the Big Green. Sophomore guard Taurus Samuels — who played for the same AAU program as Monroe, Gamepoint Elite, and has started all but one game — joins the trio in averaging more than nine points a game.
The Bulldogs have won eight straight over Dartmouth. Their last loss to the Big Green took place in March 2015.
William McCormack | email@example.com