On February 8 the Yale Bulldogs handed Harvard its first Ivy League loss, beating the Crimson 74-67 with Justin Sears’ 21 points and 11 rebounds leading the way. Yet even though Sears was a handful on that night, the biggest problem for Harvard was finding the quality looks that they generally haven’t struggled to get in league play. Yale switched ball screens, keeping point guard Siyani Chambers from turning the corner consistently, and this contributed to Harvard shooting just 39% from the field.
In order to win the rematch, and clinch a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, Tommy Amaker’s team needed to adjust to the way in which Yale would defend ball screens. The Crimson made those adjustments Friday night, shooting 56.8% from the field on their way to the 70-58 victory.
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Chambers, who finished the first meeting with ten points (3-for-9 FG), three assists and three turnovers, was far more effective in the rematch. The sophomore made five of his nine field goal attempts, scoring 17 points to go along with six assists and one turnover. And he was a key figure in Harvard’s 16-2 run to start the game, factoring into nine of those points (two points and three assists). Joining Chambers in double figures were forward Steve Moundou-Missi (16 points, six rebounds) and guard Brandyn Curry (14 points).
Harvard still didn’t have an answer for Sears, who finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds, but the difference this time around was that the Crimson did a much better job of keeping his teammates in check. Bulldogs other than Sears combined to shoot 7-for-34 from the field, with Armani Cotton and Javier Duren (0-for-11 FG) scoring a total of eight points. In the first meeting those two combined to score 28 points, with Cotton posting a double-double (13 points, ten rebounds).
Without Curry and Kyle Casey last season much was asked of Chambers and Wesley Saunders as freshmen and they delivered, leading Harvard to a win over New Mexico before falling to 6-seed Arizona. With all four players, in addition to Moundou-Missi and Laurent Rivard, part of the rotation there’s a feeling that this group may be better equipped to enjoy success in the NCAA tournament. And it wouldn’t come as a surprise if that turned out to be the case.