Trailing by a point in the final seconds, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker did not call a timeout. He left the ball in the hands of freshman point guard Siyani Chambers, who pushed it up the court.
The youngster drove to his right, faked a shot to shake his defender, then leaned to his left and calmly knocked down a 12-foot jumper to give the Crimson a thrilling 65-64 win over Boston University at Lavietes Pavilion Tuesday night.
The situation, although new to Chambers in a game, was one the Crimson have practiced extensively under Amaker.
“We don’t want the defense to get set,” said Amaker, whose squad improved to 5-4. “Sometimes people want to call a timeout and set up a play, but that allows the defense to [get set]. The kids executed beautifully. That’s our strategy, our philosophy, that’s what we practice.
“I thought Siyani drove it and did an excellent job having composure and shot-faking it. Their guys were running at him and that’s exactly what happens at the end of the games. Guys get antsy and they chase the ball a little bit. You can’t draw up a play that’s going to give you a better opportunity than we got.”
Chambers finished with a Crimson-high 21 points — 17 in the second half.
Harvard entered leading the Ivy League in 3-point shooting percentage at 40.8 and promptly went 0 for 8 from behind the arc in the first half and 33 percent from the floor.
The Terriers (3-6), on the other hand, shot 48 percent in the first half thanks in large part to D.J. Irving, who netted 11 of his game-high 24 points in the half. Irving began his first-half scoring by knocking down a three to put the Terriers ahead, 13-10, eight minutes in and capped it with a jumper in the final minute to help BU finish the first half on a 9-2 run and take a 32-25 lead into the break.
Chambers opened the second half by knocking down a three on the Crimson’s first possession, resulting in an audible sigh of relief from the 1,257 on hand.
After back-to-back BU baskets, Chambers connected on his second three and was fouled. The 4-point play brought the Crimson once again within 4, 36-32.
Chambers’s play started a 15-5 run by the Crimson that let them regain the lead with 13 minutes to play, 43-41. For a period, Harvard couldn’t miss from behind the arc — hitting five straight — energizing the crowd to a higher level with each one.
“I think Siyani started us off a little making one or two [threes] in the second half,” said Amaker. “Things can become contagious real quick, either way, and I thought that was probably what happened in both halves for us. We missed a few and it kind of got contagious in the wrong way [in the first] and then we made a few in the second half.”
Irving kept the Terriers right with Harvard down the stretch and buried what could have been the winning jumper with 19 seconds left, putting BU ahead, 64-63.
After Chambers gave the Crimson the 1-point edge with five seconds to play, Irving raced down the court and appeared to stumble as he put up a shot that caught the front of the rim and bounced away as time expired.
Harvard has strung together five consecutive wins over Boston College, four straight over MIT, and four in a row over BU.
Even having practiced what to do in a tight late-game situation, Chambers said taking the final shot had his heart beating pretty fast.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “It was a pretty nerve-racking shot.”