CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Junior Bryce Aiken scored the second-most points in a single game in program history, and Harvard men's basketball topped Columbia, 98-96 in three overtimes, on Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion.
Aiken scored a career-high 44 points, coming just one shy of the program-record 45 set by Brady Merchant '03 against Brown on March 8, 2003. He is Harvard's fourth player to eclipse 40 points, joining Merchant, Ralph James '91 and Keith Sedlacek '66. Junior Justin Bassey tallied his second double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while classmate Christian Juzang pitched in 14 points. Junior Robert Baker filled the stat sheet with six points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and four steals.
Harvard opened up an early nine-point lead, 17-9, but Columbia fought back to gain control, 31-25 late in the half. The Crimson responded with a 7-0 run late in the period after a triple from Aiken and dunk from Chris Lewis, and led at the intermission, 37-36.
The Crimson jumped out to a 59-50 lead after back-to-back buckets from Juzang midway through the period, but the Lions answered back with an 11-0 run to take the lead. Aiken and Baker gave Harvard a three-point advantage in the closing seconds after an elbow jumper and a pair of foul shots, but Columbia's Gabe Stefanini hit a fadeaway 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
Aiken scored 20 of his 44 points across the three overtime periods, including all 12 Harvard points in the first overtime. After trading free throws over the final minute of the first extra frame, Aiken hit a double-clutch triple at the horn to send the game to a second overtime.
Aiken continued his strong play in the second overtime, scoring the first six points for the Crimson to give him a stretch of 18-straight Harvard points. The game would up heading to a third overtime – Harvard's first such game since Jeremy Lin '10 hit a walk-off buzzer beater against William & Mary on Nov. 15, 2009 – with first-year Noah Kirkwood knocking down a clutch triple to give the home team a 96-93 lead with 1:08 to play. Aiken iced the contest with two late free throws, and Harvard got the stop it needed on the defensive end to win the game.
- Aiken led the way with a career-high 44 points, which is the second-highest single-game output in program history.
- Aiken scored 18 straight points for Harvard in the first and second overtimes.
- Bassey and Baker each totaled double-digit rebounds, with Bassey also scoring 17 points.
- Harvard earned its second-straight win over the Lions, and improved to 83-98 all-time in the series history.
- The triple overtime game was Harvard's first since 2009-10. The Crimson has won seven straight overtime games, and is 17-4 in extra period games under head coach Tommy Amaker.
- Fittingly, the win was Harvard's 300th inside Lavietes Pavilion.
Harvard has less than 24 hours to recover, as it takes on Cornell on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.