They're more talented, deeper and better conditioned. That's the verdict--after one game.
The 1994-95 Harvard men's basketball team, looking considerably sharper than its predecessor from a year ago, opened its season on Saturday with a 78-58 thumping of Babson at Briggs Cage.
Sophomore forward Kyle Snowden scored 21 points on seven of eight shooting from the field, and junior swingman Mike Gilmore tallied 17 points, including two three-pointers, to pace the Crimson.
The two starters were not alone in their strong performances, however, as almost every returning player for the Crimson (1-0) showed improvement.
Captain Jared Leake, guards Dan Morris, James White and David Demian, and forwards Darren Rankin and Kevin Fricks all played effectively as coach Frank Sullivan distributed the minutes and pushed for a more up-tempo offensive attack.
"We're trying to take advantage of our depth this season," said Leake, who chipped in 10 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals in a game-high 33 minutes. "We've got a good rotation of guards, and big men, too."
Although Harvard looked tight early, allowing Babson to close an early 20-1 deficit to just 38-32 at half-time, the visitors were clearly out-classed.
The Division III Beavers, who entered the game with a 3-0 record and hopes of avenging a narrow 67-62 loss to Harvard a year ago, fell apart in the game's final eighteen minutes after rallying to a 38-38 tie two minutes into the second half.
A 13-0 run for Harvard, fueled largely by Snowden's soft touch inside, stretched a 43-40 lead to 56-40 with seven minutes left and provided the killer blow.
"I have to give Babson credit," fourth-year coach Sullivan said. "They were really determined to stay in the game, and we were fortunate to break their defense down and get a few easy baskets."
Easy baskets indeed proved to be the key, as the cat-quick Morris and Leake consistently provided their Crimson teammates with easy scoring opportunities inside.
"Coach has definitely been talking about [being more aggressive offensively]," Morris said. "It felt pretty good once we got out there, and hopefully we can keep putting together strong performances for the full 40 minutes."
Another key to Harvard's quick-strike offense on Saturday was an aggressive, overplaying man-to-man defense which produced 16 steals and forced 23 Babson turnovers.
Sophomore David Demian provided a telling example. The California native, who played in only four, contests last season in mop-up duty, led an opportunistic Crimson attack with four steals and a rare block.
He was joined by Leake, who limited Babson's leading scorer, Michael Kingsley, (26.3 points per game entering Saturday's contest) to 14 points on five of 17 shooting from the field.
"Defensively, I thought we did a pretty good job," Sullivan said. "It definitely helped set up our offense, and I hope it's a sign of things to come this year."
Harvard's next test will come tomorrow night at Army, where the Crimson will take on a Cadet team that Sullivan said is on a similar level of rebuilding.
"It's the right time to go on the road and play a couple of teams [Army and St. Francis] that should give us competitive games," Sullivan said. "It should be interesting to see how this week turns out."