After trailing by one at halftime, the Harvard men’s basketball team came out firing in the second half of its Ivy League road opener in Hanover. Having shot just 35 percent in the first half, Harvard had 12 points in the first seven minutes of the second while holding the Big Green scoreless, taking an 11-point lead with 13:11 to go.
A minute later, Dartmouth’s second-leading scorer Miles Wright picked up his fourth foul to send senior Agunwa Okolie to the free throw line. As he headed to the bench, joining fellow Big Green standout Connor Boehm on the pine, the Crimson appeared poised to extend the lead.
However, with its reserves on the floor, Dartmouth (7-9, 1-1 Ivy League) climbed off the mat. If the ensuing 13-2 run was a shot to the gut, the 10-4 spurt that followed was the haymaker as a 38-27 lead turned into a 63-50 loss for Harvard (9-9, 1-1).
The Crimson managed just 12 points in the final 13 minutes of the game, with junior Zena Edosomwan and senior Agunwa Okolie scoring 15 of the team’s 24 second-half points. The forwards were the only Harvard players to score during a 12-minute stretch in the second half where the Crimson managed just six points.
“They didn’t pack it in or fold, they kept fighting and that’s what happens when you keep fighting,” Amaker said.
Even as Harvard built up its lead in the second half, the seeds of a comeback were sown. The Crimson committed six fouls before the second media time-out, putting Dartmouth in the bonus for the rest of the second half. However, the Big Green continued to miss shot after shot early in the game until the entrance of Malik Gill.
The senior reserve came in with Dartmouth down 11 and immediately provided a jolt of energy with his speed and quick hands. After hitting Dartmouth’s first field goal of the half with 11:28 to go, Gill stripped senior Patrick Steeves in the lane on Harvard’s next possession. A frustrated Steeves tried to poke the ball back and was called for his fourth foul, sending him to the bench.
The 53 percent shooter sunk both from the line and was at it again a minute later, stripping freshman point guard Tommy McCarthy and feeding Evan Boudreaux for a three that cut the lead to two.
After little-used reserve Taylor Johnson sent the Leede Arena crowd into a frenzy with a three for Dartmouth’s first lead of the second half, it was Gill two minutes later who gave the Big Green a lead it wouldn’t relinquish, knocking the ball away from captain Evan Cummins and streaking alone for a fast-break layup.
“When we go against him, he’s always played us exceptionally well,” Amaker said. “He’s very disruptive and he can push it transition, and he made his free throws.”
Gill’s performance was emblematic of how Dartmouth climbed back into the game—free throws and bench play. On a night when Wright had just one point, Dartmouth’s bench stepped up, outscoring Harvard’s 33-13. The Big Green also capitalized on loose referee whistles, sinking 20-of-26 attempts from the charity stripe to help out an anemic offense that shot below 40 percent from the field.
On the other side of the floor, Dartmouth’s best defense was often sending Harvard to the line. Harvard’s highest-volume shooter Edosomwan could not make the Big Green pay, making just two of 10 attempts, and as a team, Harvard shot just 30 percent from the free throw line—the worst performance of the Amaker era.
“We got an 11-point lead and then they just kind of flipped the switch and we made silly fouls,” Amaker said. “Looking at those two stats—free throw shooting and rebounding—really poor on our end and really outstanding by them.”
With Edosomwan struggling inside, the offense ground to a halt. The Crimson turned the ball over 14 times and had just three offensive rebounds as Dartmouth overpowered Harvard on the glass, finishing with a 38-26 advantage on the boards. Corbin Miller’s three with 13 minutes left proved to be the last one of the day for Harvard as a team that came in shooting 41.2 percent from deep made just four of 13 attempts.
-Staff Writer David Freed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.