Men’s Basketball Completes Comeback at Cornell, 77-71

Photo courtesy of Gil Talbot
Photo courtesy of Gil Talbot
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ITHACA, N.Y. – A three by freshman Justin Bassey and a pull-up jumper by classmate Bryce Aiken over the last 51 seconds sealed a 12-point comeback for Harvard men's basketball, 77-71, over Cornell Friday evening.

Harvard (11-5, 3-0) has won five-straight for the second time this season and has come out victorious in 10 of the last 11 games. It marks the largest deficit overcome for Harvard since a 76-74 win over Cornell last season (21 points). The comeback is also tied for the ninth-largest deficit overcome under head coach Tommy Amaker. The 87th Ivy win ties Amaker with Jack McCloskey (Penn) for No. 7 all-time.

The Crimson was led by 21 points from Aiken and 17 points from Corey Johnson, who also pulled down a team-best six rebounds. Bassey posted 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting. As a team, Harvard shot 50.9 percent for the game.

Cornell (5-13, 1-2) registered an even stat sheet, as four players posted double-figures and the Big Red shot 54.7 percent (29-of-53) from the field. Wil Bathurst paced Cornell with 13 points, followed by 11 apiece from Stone Gettings and Robert Hatter.

Down five, senior co-captain Siyani Chambers hit a jumper from 15 feet to pull the Crimson within three, 69-66, with 3:24 remaining. Two free throws by Bassey and a drive by Aiken put the Crimson ahead one, 70-69, with 1:42 to play. Cornell responded immediately with a drive by Hatter. Bassey did not falter on the triple from the corner, putting the Crimson ahead, 73-71. Matt Morgan nearly pulled even, but Chris Lewis blocked the shot and Chambers secured the rebound, leading to the Aiken jumper as the shot clock expired on the next play.

Both teams came out hot, as Harvard hit eight of its first 10 shots and Cornell put away nine of its first 12 to hold a 23-20 lead with nine minutes gone. Knotted 33-33 at the 5:11 mark, the Big Red posted seven-unanswered points to finish the half and take a 40-33 advantage into the locker room. Cornell continued its run after the break, scoring the first five points of the second stanza to take its largest lead of the game, 45-33, with 18:47 to play.

Bassey nailed a three from the corner to start an 11-2 run over the next two minutes that pulled the Crimson within three, 47-44. After a bucket by Wil Bathurst, Bassey responded with four-straight points of his own to pull Harvard within one, 49-48, with 15:31 to play.

A 9-4 spurt seemed to give the Big Red some breathing room, 58-52, with 12 minutes to play, but Aiken hit a 3-pointer and started a 7-0 run that gave Harvard its first lead, 59-58, since 12:58 of the first half. The two teams battled back-and-forth until a 6-0 spurt gave the Big Red a five-point advantage with five minutes remaining.

For the full, archived broadcast of today's game, please click here.

Harvard heads to New York City to face Columbia tomorrow at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed live on the Ivy League Digital Network.   

Game Notes: For the eighth time this year and 22nd time overall, Corey Johnson scored 10-plus with 17 points. For the 10th time this year, Bryce Aiken posted double-digits with 21 points. Justin Bassey scored 10-plus points for the fourth time this year. This marks the largest deficit overcome since a 76-74 win over Cornell last season (21 points). The 12 points overcome is tied for the ninth-largest deficit overcome under head coach Tommy Amaker. The 87 Ivy wins ties Amaker with Jack McCloskey (Penn) for No. 7 all-time. Siyani Chambers ranks No. 21 all-time in scoring with 1,152 points and fifth in assists with 531.