Pictured: Brandyn Curry had 10 points, nine assists and no turnovers Friday against the Quakers.
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - It may not have gone as scripted but the Harvard men's basketball team, a heavy favorite over the Penn Quakers, made an impressive late defensive stand as the Crimson prevailed, 67-66, at The Palestra.
The list of accomplishments keep growing as Harvard (21-6, 10-3 Ivy League) recorded its first season sweep of Penn since the 1941-42 season. It also marked wins in consecutive seasons at The Palestra for the first time since 1990-91. Penn falls to 5-21 and 4-8 in the league - despite shooting 61 percent on the night.The victory also sets a program record for road wins in a season with 10.
With few records yet unbroken under third-year coach Tommy Amaker, Harvard returns to action Saturday in a 6 p.m. game at Princeton as the Crimson vies for its first win at Jadwin Gym in 21 years as well as its second-ever weekend road sweep at Penn and Princeton. Harvard swept the schools at Harvard in Amaker's first year with the program in 2008.
Behind an incredibly hot-shooting Penn team, the home-standing Quakers overcame a nine-point first half deficit to lead by seven points with under five to play. After impressive first half defense by Harvard went for naught, the Crimson turned up the pressure several more times in crunch time, forcing a huge turnover with under one minute left before Kyle Casey sank a pair of 1-and-1 free throws with 11.6 seconds left to lift the Crimson.
After the free throws, Penn had one more chance but could not get off a solid look as Mike Howlett's fade-away clanked hard off the right side.
Penn blistered the nets all night, shooting 65 percent in the first half and improving that mark to 73 percent in taking a late 58-53 second half lead. The Quakers started the decisive stanza 10-of-13 from the floor; by that time, Penn was 10-of-15 from 3-point range (.667) to erase any memories of an early harassing Harvard defense and a nine-point first half lead for the visitors.
Penn's 11th 3-pointer of the game, from Zack Rosen, gave the Quakers a 63-56 lead at the 4:50 mark before Casey answered with a loud dunk inside.
With 1:40 left, Brandyn Curry stepped up and connected from long range as Harvard cut Penn's lead to 66-65. Following some frantic back-and-forth scrambles, Penn had possession under Harvard's basket with 33 seconds left in the game, nursing a 66-65 lead.
Harvard nearly got a five-second call on the inbounds but Penn got the timeout - its final of the game. In all, it would take Penn four tries to get the ball in play cleanly and it never did as another pass sailed out of bounds with 24.6 seconds as pressure from Casey and Curry allowed Lin to bounce a loose ball off Rosen's leg.
After some patient ball movement, Casey was fouled going to the hoop with 11.6 seconds left and the freshman converted his two for the victory.
Curry was immense all night in front of a loud supportive Harvard crowd. By halftime, the freshman had already tied his career-high with six assists and he finished with 10 points, nine assists and no turnovers.
Jeremy Lin turned in another all-around game with 19 points (8-10 FG, 3-3 3PT), six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Christian Webster added 11 points and three assists while coming down with several key offensive rebounds late in the action.
Offensive rebounding played a big factor in the win as the Crimson pulled down 10 boards on the offensive glass which led to 17 second chance points. Harvard also scored 24 points off 21 Penn turnovers, including seven by Rosen.
Penn did well to keep it a 36-31 game at halftime against a swarming Crimson defense that forced 10 turnovers in the first 10 minutes and 13 in the first half. Penn countered Harvard's aggression with 65 percent shooting (13-20) and benefitted from the Crimson shooting just 2-for-5 at the free throw line including a pair of missed front end of 1-and-1 situations.
Led by six first half assists from Curry, Harvard flirted with a double digit lead throughout the half and took eight point leads on a 3-pointer from Webster at the five-minute mark before Lin hit a pair of triples and a floater in the lane at the 1:30 mark to give Harvard a 36-27 lead. Harvard allowed Penn momentum however, as the Quakers scored four straight just before the break as Harvard misfired at the charity stripe.
NOTES: Harvard improves to 19-0 on the season when leading at halftime ... Harvard has recorded 10 Ivy league wins for the first time since going 10-4 in 1996-97 ... Harvard has now swept Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Penn and Yale, tying a program record for Ivy season sweeps with that of the 1970-71 program … Harvard will also try to tie the ’70-71 team with 11 Ivy wins.