Although the men’s basketball team played at Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend, its real opponent was Penn. Brown had to win both games and Penn had to lose at least one of its matchups against Cornell and Columbia for Bruno to clinch a trip to the Ivy League Tournament.
This situation resulted in the highest stakes of the season thus far and led to the Bears and the Quakers combining for a 4-0 weekend record and, like last year, a tie for fourth in the Ivy League. Brown bested Harvard 64-55 and topped Dartmouth 70-58 while Penn knocked off Cornell and Columbia. Because Penn previously beat Yale, the number one seed in the Ivy Tournament, and the Bulldogs swept Brown, Penn clinched the No. 4 seed to enter the tournament over the Bears.
Brown 64, Harvard 55
The intensity of Brown (15-12, 8-6 Ivy) at Harvard (21-8, 10-4 Ivy) was heightened against the background of the Crimson’s 2018 and 2019 league championship banners hanging in the rafters.
Brown’s play early in the first half was defined by close outs with squeaky feet, in sync defensive rotations and quick outlet passes after securing the rebound.
Harvard mirrored those fundamentals and both teams added in swats at shots, deflections and flat-out pushes to exchange momentum. Brown found itself down 18-12 midway through the half due to consecutive missed shots and untimely turnovers.
“(Harvard is) so physical and does such a good job going after the ball every possession (and) getting rebounds,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04. “It was a game where you had to be really physically and mentally tough to be out there. I thought our guys showed up and did great.”
After the Crimson’s run, Brown relied on strengths it has shown throughout league play to spark some offense of its own — Brandon Anderson ’20 made back-to-back buckets, giving the Bears a surge and a tie game at 22 three minutes later.
The next leader of Bruno’s offense was Zach Hunsaker ’20. Brown picked Harvard’s pocket four times and Hunsaker turned them into baskets with less than three minutes remaining before halftime.
“I’ve just been having the confidence (in) my last couple of games — I’m going to let them fly,” Hunsaker said.
Brown shot 60 percent from three point land during the first half and Hunsaker led the team with four treys. The team kept control of the game going into the break with a 33-30 lead.
The second half opened analogously to the first with fundamentals running the show complimented by players tossing their weight around and slam dunks followed by chest slaps.
Brown maintained control of the game 52-44 with five minutes remaining, despite Harvard’s refusal to back down and a roaring home crowd cheering it on.
The Crimson attempted to bring game-play back in its favor by showing a full-court press and fouling to stop the winding clock, but time expired with Bruno as the victor, 64-55.
“We had fun out there.” Hunsaker said. “We realize that we’re fighting for every game so (we) might as well have fun while we’re doing it. We really enjoy seeing each other have success.”
Brown 70, Dartmouth 58
The Bears’ aggressive play carried over to their game at Dartmouth (12-17, 5-9 Ivy) Saturday night, but it wasn’t quite enough during the opening 10 minutes as they trailed the Big Green 18-16.
The remainder of the first half saw a tug-of-war of lead changes and tied scores until Brown went on a 9-0 run two minutes before halftime to enter the locker room with a 38-32 advantage.
Part of the Bears’ success during the first half was attributable to taking care of the ball and forcing sloppy play by Dartmouth. Brown had two turnovers to Dartmouth’s seven.
But by halftime, it became clear that Penn would defeat Columbia, eliminating the Bears from the playoff race.
The second period featured the same energy and competitiveness as the first, but this time around, Dartmouth put on a full-court press midway through the half. The press helped the Big Green to close their six-point halftime deficit, but it was not enough to regain the lead, due in part to how the Big Green’s turnovers negated some of their defensive pressure.
The Bears defeated the Big Green 70-58 with Anderson and Hunsaker combining for 51 of the team’s 70 points. Anderson moved up to 1,405 career points, placing him at fifth in program history.