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Harvard avoids another late-game collapse in win over Cornell

Feb 8, 2013, 11:56 PM EDT

Tommy Amaker

Harvard led Cornell by 21 in the second half twice. The Crimson went on to beat the Big Red 67-65 to remain perfect and atop the Ivy League standings.

With 4:21 to go, Harvard freshman guard Siyani Chambers hit Christian Webster for a 3-pointer to give the Crimson a 15-point lead, which was the last bucket Harvard scored. Cornell went on a 13-0 run in that time before a 3-point attempt Errick Peck missed in the final seconds as Harvard held on.

In those final four minutes, Harvard was 0-for-3 from the field, which doesn’t include missing the front end of a 1-and-1, and committed a pair of turnovers.

The unraveling of Harvard in Friday night’s win looks like it becoming a habit.

Friday’s finish was similar to the way the Crimson finished the 2012 calendar year. On New Year’s Eve at St. Mary’s, Harvard blew an 18-point led, as the Gaels stormed back with a 16-5 run in the final six-plus minutes to steal the victory. Harvard missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and only made 1-of-2 with 1:30 remaining that kept it a one possession game.

Harvard committed four turnovers, the last one with 33 seconds that gave the Gaels the ball for the final shot … or in this case the final two shots. Mitchell Young corralled the Matthew Dellavedova miss and was fouled with 1.1 seconds and calmly sank both free throws, giving the Gaels a 70-69 win.

Tommy Amaker’s team should have defeated UMass on the road back in November, but a pair of turnovers in the final 45 seconds set up a Jesse Morgan tying three and a Sampson Carter game-winning triple.

Chambers has been great as a freshman point guard this season for Harvard, averaging 13.3 points and 6.1 assists. Yet, he’s still a freshman and it’s shown. The 85 percent free throw shooter has been the one to miss the front end of a 1-and-1 against St. Mary’s and again on Friday night.

Harvard (13-6, 5-0) is the defending Ivy League champions and currently holds the top spot in the conference, but not by much. Princeton trails by half a game. The Tigers cruised to victory Friday against Brown and next week they make the trip to Cambridge to take on the Crimson.

Both teams have a pair of games in between that matchup, but if both can remain perfect heading into next Saturday, it will be interesting to see if Harvard can build from these tight finishes or continue to succumb to the pressure.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne