The Harvard men's basketball team, perilously close to another subten win season, tries once again to jump-start its season tonight.
The Crimson faces Brown tonight an Yale tomorrow night.
The Crimson (2-4 Ivy, 4-14 overall) beat Columbia on the road last weekend to end a 10 game losing streak. But Harvard could not sustain its momentum the next day, falling to Cornell.
Now, the Crimson come back home to play in front of the always-inspiring Harvard faithful, and the players believe that these two upcoming contests could set the tone for the rest of the year. And, a positive tone will make next weekend's road contest against national power Penn easier.
Brown (4-2 Ivy, 9-9 overall) is tied for second in the Ancient Eight with Dartmouth, and presents a unique set of problems to Harvard. The Bears are led by junior guard Eric Blackistone, who last week hit a buzzer-beating game-winning three pointer in overtime to defeat Princeton, 67-56.
Blackistone is sixth in the Ivy League in scoring at 13.6 points per game, fifth in assists, ninth in field goal percentage, and tenth in three point field goal percentage. He is joined by sharpshooters Brian Lloyd and Otis Bryant, who are also among the top ten in Ivy three point field goal percentage. As a team, Brown ranks second--behind Penn--in treys made.
What this brief profile highlights is that Harvard must prevent Brown's guards from penetrating and kicking out for open threes. Luckily, the Crimson feel that they are stronger that the Bears inside.
"Brown has a lot of quick guards," Harvard sophomore guard David Demian said. "We have to cut off their penetration, and protect against the three. Offensively, however, we feel we have the edge inside, and we'll try to exploit that."
Harvard's inside play centers around sophomore forward Kyle Snowden, who leads the team in scoring at 13.3 points per game, and ranks first in the Ivy League in field goal percentage (54.8 percent), fourth in rebounding (6.9 per contest), and tenth in free throw percentage (73.2 percent).
The Crimson, who have lost six-seven junior forward Darren Rankin for the year because of a back injury, have recently been buoyed in the post by the emergence of six-eight freshmen Paul Fisher. Fisher is expected to start in Rankin's place, and was named the Ivy Rookie of the Week last week for his heroics against Columbia and Cornell.
Fisher tallied a career high 13 points and the game-winning shot against Columbia, and versus Cornell, in his first varsity start, he snared 11 rebounds.
Fisher and his cohorts in the paint will probably play an even more crucial role versus Yale (3-3 Ivy, 7-10 overall) tomorrow, which has been struggling of late, with three straight losses.
The Eli, who lead the league in rebounding margin but are last in three point field goals made, rely much more on its big men than Brown. Six-eight junior center Bernie Colson has been streaking lately, and was named to the Ivy Honor Roll last week based on 43 points, 16 rebounds, two blocks, and six steals in the three losses.
"Yale is not playing as well as Brown," senior center Kevin Fricka said. "But they are a hard-nosed team, and make up what they might lack in talent with heart."
Harvard had a light week of practice after playing three games last week, but the players seem focused on capturing the two upcoming home games, especially with a four game road trip that will take the Crimson from Briggs until a March 3 home game against Princeton.
"We're practicing pretty well," Fricka said. "We only have four games left at home, and we want to sweep these two and go into Penn with confidence."
A concern for Harvard is the condition of junior forward Mike Gilmore, who is second on the team in scoring and rebounding, and leads the team in three pointers made. Gilmore missed Monday's and Tuesday's practices because of a foot stress fracture. But he practiced lightly on Wednesday, and will be ready to go in tonight's game.