After jumping to an early lead, the men’s basketball team held on to hand Dartmouth its third Ivy League loss of the season Friday night. Though the Bears (9-8, 2-2 Ivy) maintained the advantage for all 40 minutes, a play made by Zach Hunsaker ’20 at the buzzer stole the show. With seven seconds left, Dartmouth hit a free throw that looked to send the game to overtime. But Hunsaker weaved through the Big Green’s (4-13, 0-4) defense to score the game-winning layup as the clock hit zero.
Hunsaker also tallied five rebounds, 12 points and led the Bears with three assists. His efforts earned him Brown Athletics Student-Athlete of the Week Honors and the number three spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays.
For his clutch performance and unforgettable shot, Hunsaker has been named The Herald’s Athlete of the Week.
Herald: Congratulations on the win! What were you thinking as the final seconds ticked off the clock?
Hunsaker: I was pretty nervous when the (Dartmouth) kid had two free throws and put one up at the end of the game, but I knew that we were fine and that we were going to have a chance to win the game. I just tried to keep calm and, luckily, the ball came to me at the end. That was definitely a special moment.
What was going through your head when you made the shot?
I thought I got fouled at the end, to be honest. I thought I had a good shot at it, but I didn’t really see it go in because I got hit. I fell down, so I didn’t really see it until it was coming through the hoop. It was definitely a relief.
Did you know that the highlight made it on SportsCenter?
I actually got a text from a coach that had recruited me to go to a different school last year. He texted me and said it was on ESPN, and I was super surprised. I had no idea it was going to be on there. I was hoping one day to make it on ESPN.
How did you first get into basketball?
I’ve been playing basketball for as long as I can remember. My dad was a college basketball coach. It’s always been a major part of my life, especially because of my dad and that being his job.
How do you prepare for games?
I just make sure I go and get some shots up before the game. I always take a nap about three hours before the game to relax. I listen to music, but usually it’s Post Malone or something like that.
I went to junior college last year, so it’s kind of crazy to go from a junior college to an Ivy League school. Before I went to junior college, I lived in Africa for two years as a missionary for my church right after I graduated from high school. Before I did that, I was talking to Dartmouth about going and playing basketball there, and so when I got back from being a missionary, I had talked to them as well. But the funny thing is Dartmouth actually told me that they didn’t really want me to come play for them, so that’s why I went to a junior college. It’s kind of crazy how the game-winner happened to be against Dartmouth, so that was great.
What did that win do for the team’s attitude and mentality?
It was a definitely a confidence booster for us. Any time you win a game in the Ivy League, it’s always great. It just kind of helped us to get going, and hopefully, we can continue to win some more games. Obviously, losing to Harvard on Saturday didn’t really help too much, but hopefully, we can turn it around this weekend.
How is the team feeling about the rest of the schedule?
We know it’s going to be difficult, but we feel pretty confident that we can play with any of the teams. If we can just continue to get better each and every day, hopefully, we’ll be able to put ourselves in a good position at the end of the season.
Does the team have any specific goals for the rest of the season?
I wouldn’t say we have any specific goals. We’re just trying to take it one game at a time, and obviously, we want to get to the Ivy League tournament.
The Bears begin their next pair of Ivy games by facing off against Penn tonight at 7 p.m. and will travel to Princeton for a 6 p.m. tip-off Saturday.