Harvard Tops Columbia, 56-51, to Jump Back in First in the Ivy

Christian Webster and the Crimson are now 12-1 at home this season (Gil Talbot).

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Siyani Chambers went 5-of-6 from the field and finished with 15 points, while Wesley Saunders sank six buckets and tallied 16 points, as the Harvard men's basketball team secured a big, 56-51, win over Columbia Friday evening at Lavietes Pavilion.

With the win, Harvard improves to 18-9 overall and 10-3 in the Ancient Eight, moving one-half game ahead of Princeton (9-3) in the conference standings.

The Crimson will conclude the regular season tomorrow afternoon, as Harvard hosts Cornell at Lavietes Pavilion at 5:30 p.m. The game will be shown live on NBC Sports Network.

A victory by Harvard would clinch at least a share of the team's third straight Ivy League title.

Steve Moundou-Missi added nine points for Harvard, who shot 19-of-39 (.487) for the game and was 15-of-20 (.750) from the foul line. The Crimson led in fast-break points, 14-2, and had 13 points off turnovers. Kenyatta Smith paced the team with eight rebounds and six blocks.

Grant Mullins and Alex Rosenberg each tallied 14 points to lead Columbia (12-14, 4-9 Ivy).

After Columbia started with a 5-0 lead, Christian Webster found Kenyatta Smith for a jump hook just outside the paint, but Columbia answered, 7-2. With the Lions up, 9-2, Smith added another bucket, but Columbia again responded to make it a 12-4 contest. Siyani Chambers hit a layup, and Laurent Rivard drained a triple from the wing, 12-9, but again the Lions went on a 4-0 run to make it 16-9.

With 6:36 left in the first, Chambers was fouled and hit both free throws, 16-11, and then Wesley Saunders connected on a layup, making it a three-point contest. Chambers added a steal and a layup, as the Crimson cut the deficit to five, 20-15. At the 2:28 mark, Saunders drove the lane and drew contact before sinking a jumper off the backboard. Saunders made the ensuing foul shot, keeping it a five-point game, 23-18.

In the final minutes of the half, Chambers made a jumper inside the 3-point line, 26-20, and then Webster hit an off-balanced runner in the lane, 28-22. At the break, Chambers paced the Crimson with eight points, but Harvard shot only 1-of-7 from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes.

In the second, Saunders opened the scoring for Harvard with an and-one, 30-25, and then Rivard drained a triple, 30-28. After Chambers stole the ball and tied it up with a layup, 30-30, as the Crimson went on an 8-0 run. Saunders knotted it with a jumper, 32-32, and then made a trey, giving Harvard its first lead, 35-34.

Steve Moundou-Missi gave Harvard a 39-36 advantage with a bucket in the paint, and then he added two foul shots with just over 10 minutes to play, 41-38. Columbia went back in front, 44-41, but Chambers sank two from the charity stripe, as the Crimson trailed by just one.

Webster assisted on a layup by Saunders, as Harvard was down by one, 46-45, but Columbia went back up by four, 49-45. With 1:22 to go, Moundou-Missi headed to the line and made both, 49-47. With 41.1 ticks left, Chambers was fouled and hit a layup, tying the game, 49-49. Chambers made the foul shot, putting Harvard up, 50-49. Moments later, Moundou-Missi stole the ball and finished with a dunk, 52-49. Moundou-Missi sank one layup, as Harvard went up four, 53-49.  

In a pre-game Senior Day ceremony, Harvard honored Webster, the team's co-captain and the program's all-time winningest player.