Screaming fans, intense physicality and a championship run at stake characterized the men’s basketball team’s nail-biting victories over Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend at the Pizzitola Sports Center.
Brown entered the weekend on a two-game win streak in the Ivy League and added to its run with a 67-65 defeat of the Big Green and a 72-71 win over the Crimson, both coming down to the last play of the game. The wins moved Brown into a two-way tie for third place in the conference standings and put Bruno firmly in contention for a berth in the conference tournament.
Brown 67, Dartmouth 65
The Bears (11-8, 4-2 Ivy) and the Big Green (7-14, 0-6) traded buckets back and forth during the opening five minutes of their Friday night matchup, but Dartmouth soon put on a three-quarter court press to slow the Bears’ pace. Dartmouth showed its press expecting to open up its tight lead, but instead accumulated eight team fouls in the first 16 minutes of the game. The fouls sent Bruno to the charity stripe, where it capitalized off of the opportunities and used them to take more offensive risks.
In the last seven seconds of the half, Dartmouth committed another shooting foul — this time from beyond the arc. Brandon Anderson ’20 made all three of the ensuing free throws. But Dartmouth ran its next possession just in time to score a deep buzzer-beating three pointer to send Brown into the locker room with a 35-27 deficit.
The second half began on a sloppy note for Dartmouth, with two unforced turnovers in the first two minutes due to offensive miscommunications.
“I knew all week long it was going to be such a tough game,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04. “We wanted our physicality, speed and athleticism to take over.”
The Bears didn’t back down despite getting bumped around. Instead, they doubled down on team play. Anderson picked up Dartmouth’s point guard full court, which forced an errant pass, making it easy for Daniel Friday ’23 to steal. From the Brown takeaway, Tamenang Choh ’21 scored a triple.
Bruno still trailed 34-41 with fourteen minutes to play, but Choh’s three-pointer sparked an 11-4 Brown run which pulled the Bears within three points.
“In the locker room at halftime, we focused on energy, and that energy carried us to the win,” Anderson said.
The crowd’s energy matched the stakes of the game and the level of intensity from both teams rose as the clock wound down. Dartmouth’s aggressive tactics came back to cost it because, once again, it earned eight team fouls and sent Brown to the free throw line.
With roughly two minutes to go in the game, Jaylan Gainey ’22 converted a put-back dunk and blocked a Dartmouth shot on the other end. The sequence fueled a fast break three-pointer from Perry Cowan ’23, and Choh took a charge on the other end of the floor to help the Bears pull ahead 61-52. But the Big Green fought back to within two points during the last 30 seconds.
The game boiled down to the last possession, but Dartmouth missed the game-winning three and Brown walked away with the win, 67-65. Five players — Anderson, Cowan, Choh, Gainey and Zach Hunsaker ’20 — scored in double digits.
Brown 72, Harvard 71
The Bears’ game against Harvard (14-7, 3-3) also came down to the final play. Brown found itself down 71-69 with possession and less than three seconds left in the game. With the crowd on its feet, Anderson took the ball out of bounds and tossed it to Choh. Choh faked the handoff to Anderson, snapped the ball back for a quick cross-over into a left handed dribble, passed his defender and kissed the ball off the glass through a foul as time expired. Choh finished off the and-one play to win the game 72-71.
Harvard and Brown entered the game in a three-way tie with Penn for third place in the Ivy League, and early on, the Crimson’s defense exposed Brown’s offensive weaknesses. The Bears were forced into turnovers and unlikely three-point attempts, allowing Harvard to head the other way for its own baskets. Harvard added to the scoreboard with high-low plays for easy layups, but Brown started to work the ball around to score.
Each additional point brought more shoves and pushes, more players hitting the floor and more free throws, leading to a score of 27-23 Harvard with less than six minutes to go in the half. Free throws kept Bruno in the game, as the Bears knocked in 20 in the first half compared to Harvard’s 11.
Brown worked to control the pace of the game, but struggled to fight through Crimson rim protectors blocking Bruno layups and scoring some of their own. Harvard posted double the paint points of Brown in the first half, at 24-12.
The first half ended with Brown logging a block of its own, scoring from the charity stripe and hitting a three to go into break tied at 39.
The Bears’ momentum picked up right where it left off, as they went on an 11-3 run to start the second half. By the midway point of the half, Harvard had battled back and led 53-52. There were ten ties and 13 lead changes throughout the course of the game. The score stayed within two or three points as the clocked wound down, and with a minute and a half to go, the game was tied at 69. With just over three seconds left on the board, Harvard went up by two with a layup just as the shot-clock expired. On the final possession, Choh knocked down the critical layup and game-winning free throw to put Bruno in third place in the conference, behind only Yale and Princeton.
“Coach called a great play and we executed it perfectly,” Choh said. “I’m grateful we won and now it’s on to the next game.” He finished the night with 17 points while Anderson posted 22.
The Bears hope to extend their win streak to six at Penn and Princeton next Friday and Saturday night.