CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Dartmouth senior Miles Wright put on a show in his hometown of Boston, leading all players with 23 points and seven rebounds, but host Harvard battled back after blowing a 15-point lead in the second half to defeat the Big Green, 61-51, in the Ivy League opener for both teams on Saturday afternoon at Lavietes Pavilion. The Crimson (6-9, 1-0 Ivy) hit 12-of-25 3-pointers — four in the final 5:20 — to keep Dartmouth (4-8, 0-1 Ivy) from pull off a stunning comeback on this court as it did two years ago.
Seth Towns led Harvard with 16 points and was one of three Crimson players to knock down three trifectas, joining Justin Bassey and Corey Johnson, both of whom had 11 points. Christian Juzang added a dozen more with a pair of triples, while Towns and Bassey each grabbed six rebounds as Harvard held a 32-25 advantage on the boards.
Wright was simply stellar, hitting 8-of-13 from the floor and 3-of-6 from the perimeter, as well all four foul shots to account for his season-high 23 points. It was his seventh career 20-point game and second against Harvard, the other coming in a 17-point second-half comeback two years ago when he also tallied 23. But he was the lone Big Green player in double figures as his teammates combined to hit nine field goals as the squad shot just 37.8 percent overall (17-of-45) and 26.3 percent (5-of-19) from distance.
After Juzang and Towns hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the second half to boost Harvard’s lead to 37-22 with 17:50 to play, Dartmouth held the Crimson scoreless for nearly seven minutes while rallying to tie the score at 37 apiece. Sophomore Will Emery started off the 15-point surge with a putback, followed by a Brendan Barry rainmaker, which brought about a Harvard timeout with its lead still at 10.
Yet the Big Green kept charging as Wright scored eight straight points on two free throws sandwiched between a pair of 3-pointers. And when freshman Chris Knight hit a 17-foot jumper from the top of the key, Dartmouth had erased its 15-point deficit in five minutes.
Even when Harvard answered with a Chris Lewis layup and a Towns trey, the Green went right back to work with eight straight points to take a 45-42 lead with six minutes to play. Senior Taylor Johnson hit a tough, fadeaway 15-footer as the shot clock was expiring to get Dartmouth back on track before Wright scored the next six points, capped by an acrobatic layup off a long outlet pass by Johnson.
But it was the Big Green’s turn for a cold spell, going scoreless for nearly five minutes as Harvard heated up again from the outside. Corey Johnson knotted the score with a 3-pointer before Bassey gave the Crimson the lead for good with his third bomb. Johnson made it three straight possessions with a trifecta the next time down the court, causing Dartmouth to call a timeout down six, 51-45, with 3:48 remaining.
But the Green could not get any closer as Juzang popped one from downtown before Barry ended the run with a pair of foul shots. Harvard proceeded to convert 5-of-6 at the charity stripe — its only free throws of the game — during the final minute to seal the victory.
The first half was a sloppy affair with the two teams combining for 29 turnovers, 15 by the Crimson. All but three of Dartmouth’s points in the stanza came off those miscues, but Harvard shot a robust 54.5 percent (12-of-22) overall and 55.6 percent (5-of-9) from behind the arc to make up for its mistakes and claim a 29-19 lead at the break.
The tone for the first half was set on the opening tip as Harvard gained control but immediately coughed the ball up. Wright then stole the ball on the next Crimson possession and went coast-to-coast for the game’s first points. But Harvard took the lead on a Johnson 3-pointer before Bassey scored the next eight Harvard points with a pair of treys for an 11-7 advantage eight minutes in.
Dartmouth went through a six-minute scoring drought, but the Crimson could only score eight points during that stretch as both teams struggled to hold onto the ball. Wright finally ended the run with another steal and one-hand jam to ignite the Big Green offense. Freshman Adrease Jackson hit one from deep, Taylor Johnson got three the hard way, and freshman Aaryn Rai drove for a tough layup after two Barry free throws to bring the Big Green back within four at 23-19.
Another cold spell over the final four minutes of the stanza allowed Harvard to build its lead to 10 at the break, capped by a baseline dunk courtesy of Towns.
Dartmouth returns to Hanover to host Vermont in a Twin State battle on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed live on the Ivy League Network, which is now available on Apple TV, Roku and the ILN app for Android and Apple devices. Brett Franklin and Jill Koclanes will call the action, simulcast on the radio on KOOL FM (106.7 and 96.3).
Notes: Dartmouth has lost its last 11 Ivy League openers, all against Harvard … after the 29 combined turnovers in the first half, the teams had just seven total after the intermission … the Big Green have lost their last three to the Crimson since the comeback victory that featured a 30-point second half swing at Lavietes two years ago.