Fantastic Finish: Bulldogs Topple Harvard 70-69

Jeremiah Kreisberg. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Jeremiah Kreisberg. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Kreisberg's Layup Wins It In Final Minute

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Porter Braswell's last game at the John J. Lee Amphitheater turned out to be his most memorable.

Jeremiah Kreisberg's layup with 41 seconds left off a perfect feed from Reggie Willhite lifted Yale to a thrilling 70-69 victory over Harvard before a raucous home crowd of 2,249.

The Crimson had a chance to win in the final seconds. Brandyn Curry drove to the basket, but was surrounded. He managed to get off a shot as time expired, but it rolled off the rim, setting off a wild celebration.

"It's a great way to end," said Braswell, one of three Yale seniors. "I was asked earlier in the week what my best memory was. Well this is it. Hands down, by far."

The loss knocks the Crimson (21-5, 10-2 Ivy) out of first place. Harvard now trails Princeton (10-1) by a half game.

Austin Morgan led Yale with 16 points. Willhite added 15 points, five rebounds and eight assists. Kreisberg finished with 13 points, and Greg Mangano contributed 11 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks.

Christian Webster paced Harvard with 22 points.

Yale (14-12, 7-5 Ivy) played a nearly flawless game. The Bulldogs had just three turnovers in avenging a 78-75 loss to the Crimson three weeks ago.

"It was a huge difference from the first game," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball. "We had 18 turnovers in that game and really didn't give ourselves an opportunity to win."

Yale still needed a late rally to overtake the Crimson. Laurent Rivard's jumper gave Harvard a 61-55 lead with six minutes to play. The Bulldogs, though, scored the next five points to get right back in it.

Yale finally tied it when Braswell made two free throws and then took the lead, 68-66, on Willhite's driving layup with 1:28 left.

Webster answered with a conventional three-point to give Harvard the lead, but Kreisberg had an immediate answer. Willhite lobbed a pass over a defender to Kreisberg, who converted what turned out to be the winning layup.

"It was the best pass of the night," Kreisberg said. "Reggie looked off the weak side help, and it was an easy layup after that."

Harvard, though, still had 41 seconds to work with. Rivard missed a three-pointer, but Keith Wright dove to control the offensive rebound and quickly called timeout with 26 seconds left. The Crimson then tried to work the ball around but was forced to settle for Curry's highly-contested last shot.

"I thought we did a good job of pressuring them," Jones said.

Early on, it looked like the game wouldn't come down to the final minutes. The Crimson made 5-of-7 three-pointers in the first half, but Yale managed to stay just close enough. Harvard had several seven-point advantages, the last one coming on a Rivard's three-pointer with 2:28 left. The Bulldogs, though, held the Crimson scoreless for the remainder of the half and cut the deficit to 35-30 at the intermission.

Morgan then got hot for Yale. He made a pair of three-pointers in the first two minutes of the second to give the Bulldogs the lead. In all, 14 of his 16 points came in the final 20 minutes.

"I know the first five minutes of a half are important," said Morgan, who was 5-of-8 from the field, including 4-of-6 from three-point range. "I was able to hit two quick three's to help get us going."

NOTES: Yale seniors Braswell, Raffi Mantilla and Alfonso Costa were all honored prior to the start of the game. Mantilla was unable to play due to an injury… It was also Alumni Day, and a number of former players were on hand to watch the thrilling victory… All 12 of Yale's Ivy League games have now been decided by nine points or less. The one-point win was the Bulldogs' second in Ivy play. They knocked off Cornell 71-70 on Feb. 4… Yale finished 9-4 at home, including 5-2 in Ivy play… The Bulldogs conclude the season weekend, playing at Columbia on Friday and at Cornell on Saturday. Both games begin at 7 p.m.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity