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Harvard's Chambers emerges just in time

11/10/2013

BOSTON -- Maybe Siyani Chambers had a bad first 20-plus minutes, or maybe the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2012-13 was simply taking a lesson from show business.

Either way, Chambers definitely saved his best for last.

After Holy Cross’ Malachi Alexander hit a free throw to convert an and-1 and put the Crusaders ahead by 1, the Harvard sophomore came alive after being held scoreless in the first half.

Fouled, Chambers calmly drilled both free throws. On the next Crimson possession, the 6-foot, 170-pound point guard swished a stop-and-pop jumper from left of the free throw line. And when Brandyn Curry drove into the lane to draw the defense, then kicked to the corner, Chambers coolly set his feet and drained a back-breaking 3.

After the shot went in, Chambers flexed his arms and shouted “Let’s go!” toward his teammates on the bench.

“That was a critical stretch, obviously,” coach Tommy Amaker said after his Crimson closed out the 82-72 win. “When the game got very tight and we lost the lead, they showed an incredible amount of composure. I don’t think [Chambers] had played very well up to that point, so to have him step forward and make those kinds of game-changing plays for us -- that’s just the kind of player he has been for us. And we’re very, very pleased he was able to come through for us again tonight.”

Holy Cross coach Milan Brown called timeout, but the damage was done. With his personal seven-point run, Chambers had turned a one-point deficit for Harvard into a six-point lead.

“We’re not big obviously at the moral victories, so we’re very disappointed in the outcome,” Brown said. “I didn’t have any doubt that we’d compete at the level that we did, but the last five minutes [got away from us]. We played a team that understands how to win and has been in big moments. They’re at a level that we’re trying to get to. They made some big, game-winning plays.”

While Chambers made his plays in the most important moments, the Crimson wouldn’t have been in position to win if not for the play of reserve big man Jonah Travis. The Minneapolis, Minn., native came off the bench when Kyle Casey got in foul trouble and, as Amaker put it, “gave us a huge shot in the arm.”

“I know my job,” the 6-6, 225-pounder said. “My job is to come in there and provide energy for the team and if that helps them get over the hump or the slow start that we had, that’s what I need to do. They need me to grab rebounds and set screens or score points when I was open.”

Travis did all of that Sunday night -- fouling out with 20 points and 10 rebounds, both team highs for Harvard -- setting the stage for Chambers to start the Crimson’s season off with a win.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.