Returning home to Lavietes after a tough five-game road stretch, Harvard (15-7, 4-3 Ivy) cruised to an 85-63 victory against Cornell (5-15, 2-5 Ivy), for its first double-digit conference win in over a year.
For the Crimson, it seemed like every Ivy league matchup for would go down the wire. All six of Harvard’s previous conference games have been decided by five points or less, with four of them coming down to the final possession. Against the Big Red, the Crimson was finally able to maintain its stellar play for a full forty minutes, never once giving Cornell a chance to get back into the game.
“I feel like throughout the season so far we would have a good lead and kind of let it go late or we would come back from a big lead and come up either winning or losing at the very end,” sophomore forward Noah Kirkwood said. “So I think just establishing a lead early and maintaining that throughout the whole game for 40 minutes I thought was the statement we made at home.”
Harvard’s consistent play for the entire game came largely in part to its contributions from the bench. First-year forward Chris Ledlum had an outstanding game, putting up a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Senior forward Danilo Djuricic was also critical for the Crimson offense with 13 points and a team-leading three three-pointers.
“I was very pleased with the efforts of the guys coming off the bench,” coach Tommy Amaker said. “Ledlum was just tremendous on the backboard plays with great aggressiveness. Danilo makes it a lot different for our team when he's on the floor and steps out there makes you know, one or two threes, and it just changes things for our ballclub.”
The tremendous bench play allowed for Harvard to have a balanced scoring attack and not overwork any one player. Other than senior guard Christian Juzang, no one on the team played for more than 25 minutes, allowing for there to be fresh legs on the court for the entirety of the game.
“We can utilize our depth in that way,” Amaker said. “And in our league, we know how important that is, you know, with back to back games and so, to have guys being mature and playing the right way. We got to get out to a big league and didn't get sloppy and careless and we were able to play multiple bodies.“
The team also saw resurgent performances from some of the key members of its rotation such as senior forward Chris Lewis. A tough road trip last weekend saw Lewis average 4.5 points on 40 percent shooting. Coming back home, the Alpharetta, Ga. native scored 13 points and was perfect from the field and free-throw line. Lewis’ inside scoring presence not only led to points in the paint but also opened up opportunities for the team from the perimeter.
“I think our guys love playing with Chris because he's, he's our focal point on the interior,” coach Amaker said. “We played through him, but they all know that if he doesn't have it, he's looking for them for their open threes. And so I thought he was giving us the balance of what we need in the interior.”
The Crimson’s blowout victory was also a result of its lockdown defense throughout the game. In the first half, Harvard limited the Big Red to 15 points on 15 percent shooting. After holding Cornell scoreless for the first seven minutes of the game, the Crimson never looked back as its defense held the Big Red to only four field goals in the period.
“I was really pleased with the start we had and how we were able to play defensively with great discipline,” Amaker said. “That was the key against this team and its style we’ll have to do it again tomorrow night.”
One of the lone bright spots for Cornell was the play of junior forward Jimmy Boeheim. Boeheim led the way for the Big Red with 17 points and scored 12 of the team’s 15 points in the first half.
“I give him credit, you know he's a really good player and his growth over the past few years at Cornell has been huge,” senior forward Justin Bassey said. “He's great and you know a versatile player who’s difficult to guard.”
The team looks to continue its excellent play at home Saturday night when they take on Columbia at 7 pm at Lavietes.
— Staff writer Mahtab Shihab can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.