CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — With a big upset in its sights, the Dartmouth men’s basketball team saw its 10-point lead evaporate in the final 95 seconds as host Harvard rallied to defeat the Big Green in overtime on Saturday afternoon, 82-77, in front of a Lavietes Pavilion crowd of 1,807 on national television.
Dartmouth (4-12, 0-2 Ivy) got 15 points apiece from sophomore John Golden and freshman Malik Gill while rookie Connor Boehm recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, not to mention a season-high five steals in 42 minutes of action. As a team the Big Green shot an even 50 percent (29-of-58) on the afternoon, but a few key misses at the free throw line proved to be costly as they hit 62.5 percent (15-of-24) from the charity stripe.
Siyani Chambers led the Crimson (10-6, 2-0 Ivy) with 21 points while Wesley Saunders added 20. All but six of those combined 41 points came after the intermission. Also scoring in double figures for Harvard were Jonah Travis with 16 points and Christian Webster with 13. Nine of Webster’s 13 points came on three three-pointers during the furious rally in the closing two minutes during which the Crimson knocked down all six of their field goal attempts.
“When we look back at this game, we see a game we deserved to win,” said Dartmouth head coach Paul Cormier. “At the same time, we really didn’t deserve it because we have to put them away. You can outplay a team as I thought we did, but in the end, you have to make plays. There is no doubt that this one stings — it would have been that signature win this program has been looking for to get us going. But we can take the confidence that we should have that we can compete in this league, something we haven’t really done in the recent past.”
When Gill canned two free throws with 3:49 to play, Dartmouth enjoyed its largest lead at 57-44. Harvard was shooting just 37.2 percent from the floor (16-of-43) and the Big Green 56.1 percent (23-of-41). Travis immediately laid one in, and the next time down the floor a mild controversy arose. Chambers drove to the basket and sophomore center Gabas Maldunas tried to get into position to take the charge. The whistle blew and the charge was initially called, which would have been Chambers’ fifth foul, but another official overturned the call, giving Chambers two shots from the line and Maldunas his fourth foul.
Chambers hit just the first of the two free throws, despite getting a second chance on his second shot due to a lane violation. Three consecutive turnovers wiped out about 90 seconds from the clock, but Webster rained in a three-pointer — ending a string of 13 consecutive Crimson misses from behind the arc — to make it a 57-50 game with 1:33 to go.
In those final 93 seconds, Dartmouth missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and converted a total of 5-of-9 at the line. Webster fired up two more three-pointers before Chambers tied the game with a driving layup with 16.8 seconds on the clock. Gill tried a three of his own in the final seconds, but could not get it to drop, sending the game into overtime.
Harvard then scored the first six points as Laurent Rivard popped a three to start things off. The Crimson then staved off a Dartmouth rally by converting 13-of-15 at the foul line to send the visitors home with what could have been.
The Big Green took control of the game from the beginning, jumping out to a quick 12-4 lead after five minutes of play as they scored on six of their first seven possessions. Golden drained three shots, hit two more in the lane and freshman Mitola lofted a floater for the eight-point advantage.
Meanwhile, the Dartmouth defense was stifling. After Harvard managed two field goals in the first two and a half minutes, the Big Green held the Crimson to just 1-of-10 from the floor and forced six turnovers over more than 10 minutes.
With a 14-8 lead, freshman Kevin Crescenzi launched a three-pointer and Boehm followed with a jumper for Dartmouth’s first double-digit lead of the contest at 19-8 with 8:40 left in the half. Harvard was able to whittle its deficit down to five, but go no closer before the buzzer sounded as the Big Green took a 29-20 lead at the break.
The shooting statistics at the half were a stark contrast with Dartmouth shooting 56.5 percent (13-of-23) to the Crimson’s 33.3 percent (7-of-21), especially considering Harvard entered the game among the top 25 nationally in field goal percentage.
Those percentages continued into the second half as the Big Green hit their first seven shots to improved to 20-of-30 (.667) for the game. Harvard was never within a single possession from the time when Dartmouth led 8-4 until Webster hit one of his late triples with 39.8 seconds to play.
The Big Green got much better bench production than Harvard as well with Gill, junior Tyler Melville and Crescenzi combining for 26 points. The Crimson got just five points from Steve Moundou-Missi as four of their five starters played at least 41 minutes. Boehm was the only Big Green player to be on the court for more than 31 minutes (42).
Dartmouth returns home next weekend to host Brown on Friday night with tip-off at 7 p.m. Harvard will welcome Yale to its arena on Friday at 7 p.m. as well.
Notes: The last Dartmouth victory in the series with Harvard came four years ago at Lavietes Pavilion in overtime. Much like that game, Harvard tied the game on a layup in the waning seconds to force overtime, but the Big Green won by nine, 75-66 ... the three starting sophomores — Maldunas, Golden and Jvonte Brooks — all fouled out, with the latter two coming in the overtime period ... the 15 points were a career-high for Gill ... the rebounding was dead even at 35 apiece, while the Green committed 20 turnovers to 19 for Harvard ... Dartmouth shot at least 50 percent for the second straight game, something it had not done since December of 2008.