The men’s basketball team earned crucial victories over Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend, drawing the Bears closer to an Ivy League tournament berth. The win over Harvard Friday was the Bears’ first victory against the Crimson in 20 matchups spanning almost ten years. A 68-65 triumph over Dartmouth Saturday coupled with a Cornell loss put Bruno in a fourth-place tie with the Big Red in the Ancient Eight standings. With just four regular season games remaining on Brown’s schedule and the top four teams advancing to the Ivy League tournament, the conference weekend sweep put the team in prime position to seize a spot in the bracket.
Brown’s season-long scoring leader Desmond Cambridge ’21 paced the team against Harvard (14-9, 7-3 Ivy), pouring in 30 points on 11-21 shooting. Against Dartmouth (11-15, 2-8), it was Brandon Anderson ’20 leading the charge, coming off the bench to put up a career-high 21 points. Tamenang Choh ’21 also posted a strong performance Saturday night, recording a double-double as well as a highlight-reel dunk near the end of the first half.
“(Obi Okolie ’19 and Anderson) were great and led the way, but up and down the lineup guys contributed,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04.
Despite struggling with slow starts earlier in the season, the Bears (17-9, 5-5) came out hot against the Crimson. After Harvard took a 3-2 lead in the opening minutes, Bruno led for the remainder of the game. Brown raced out to a 21-12 edge with the help of two Cambridge three-pointers and carried that momentum into a 37-27 halftime lead.
Harvard’s Noah Kirkwood, who finished the night with 28 points despite coming off the bench, helped keep the Crimson in the game. Kirkwood put up 10 points in the first four minutes of the second half to cut the Bears’ lead to two. Brown responded with a run of their own to extend the lead back to 10, but each time the Bears tried to pull away the Crimson would draw close again. Eventually, a Kirkwood layup with 1:04 left pulled Harvard within just three, but a crucial layup by Matt DeWolf ’21 and accurate free-throw shooting from Anderson sealed the 88-79 win.
The contest against Dartmouth was close throughout, with neither team ever jumping out to a double-digit advantage. The Bears and the Big Green tussled for the lead, with Dartmouth pulling ahead 27-20 during the first half. But an 11-0 Brown run capped by an and-one dunk from Choh through contact put Bruno in the driver’s seat. A long three from Dartmouth’s James Foye cut Brown’s lead to just 31-30 heading into halftime.
Brown again struggled out of the halftime break, as Dartmouth immediately took a 41-33 lead, the largest advantage of the game for either squad. Still, the Bears clawed back into the game with a 15-7 run to tie the score at 48 with 10 minutes remaining. Clutch free throw shooting down the stretch helped Brown take the lead and remain in front, as Bruno finished the game 22-27 on free throw shooting. A Foye three-pointer drew Dartmouth within one point of Brown with 1:14 remaining, but Anderson made seven free throws in the final 67 seconds to give Brown the 68-65 win.
The Bears shut down Dartmouth star Brendan Barry, a 46.1 percent three-point shooter, and held him to just 1-6 from beyond the arc. The defensive effort of Okolie, who guarded Barry for much of the game, was central to Bruno’s win.
“(Okolie) was just relentless, hounding (Barry),” Martin said. “We have a team full of great defenders, but (Okolie) is our leader and he’s been our stopper.”
“(Barry) is a good player, obviously a really good three-point shooter,” Okolie said. “I was just trying to run him off the line.”
The victory over Dartmouth finished off Brown’s first Ivy League weekend sweep since 2014.
“We just emphasized this morning in shootarounds, how we were going to respond (after beating Harvard),” Anderson said. “Do we want to be a team that just wins one big game, or do we want to reach our goals?”
Next weekend, Brown will take on Columbia and Cornell in two all-important matchups. Victories in those two games would place Bruno in contention for a playoff position. The contests will also be the Bears’ final two games at the Pizzitola Sports Center, and the Cornell game will serve as their Senior Night.