BOSTON—When the Harvard men’s basketball team faced the Boston University Terriers last year, the Crimson scored 48 points in the first half en route to an impressive 76-60 win. Last night, the Crimson barely scored 40 points in the entire game en route to one of its worst offensive performances in years.
Harvard (4-2, 0-0 Ivy) made a paltry 27 percent of its shots from the field—including an uncharacteristically low 17 percent from beyond the arc—and only converted on three of 12 free throw opporunities as B.U. (4-3, 0-0 America East) pulled out the 51-41 win at Case Gymnasium.
“It was truly one of the most bizzare games we’ve been a part of,” said Harvard Coach Frank Sullivan.
The 41-point output was the lowest for a Harvard squad since a January 1993 meeting with Princeton that the Crimson lost, 63-39.
Harvard, though, was not the only team to struggle offensively last night. The Terriers also shot poorly from the field, only making 31 percent of their shots, but converted 16-of-17 attempts from the free throw line.
Both defenses played solidly, forcing turnovers and bad shots, but it was the Terriers press-and-zone setup that caused the most trouble. The Crimson was forced to put up a season-high 35 three-point attempts and did not make nearly enough (six) to keep pace with B.U.
“They did a good job of getting us out of rhythm offensively,” Sullivan said. “They made us take threes and we just didn’t hit them.”
Though Harvard leapt out to 14-7 lead on the strength of eight early points from junior guard Patrick Harvey, the Terriers were able to ride a balanced scoring attack and pressure defense to a 24-22 halftime edge.
B.U. was able to rally to the halftime lead with a 15-3 run fueled by several Harvard turnovers. The Crimson committed 12 turnovers in the first half alone and ended with 21 for the game.
“We played great defense, but the turnovers just killed us,” said captain Drew Gellert. “They got some easy points off our turnovers and that definitely hurt us.”
Harvey led the Crimson in scoring at the half with 11 points, and the Terriers responded in the second half with additional defensive coverage on the 5’11 shooting guard. Harvey only scored four points the rest of the way as the scoring burden was shifted to the rest of the team.
Unfortunately for the Crimson, Harvey’s teammates could not rise to the occasion and pick up the scoring slack. The Terrier box-and-one defense freed up the perimeter and coaxed Harvard into shooting from beyond the arc. Gellert and junior guard both went 0-for-4 from three-point range as the Crimson converted a miniscule nine percent of three-point shots.
Despite the offensive woes, Harvard was able to remain close to B.U. with tenacious defense and solid rebounding. Senior center Tim Coleman hauled in 12 boards and the Crimson dominated the offensive glass with 19 rebounds.
“I thought we made the hustle plays, like rebounding and tough defense, but we couldn’t make the finesse plays like shooting free throws and three-pointers,” Sullivan said.
Despite the poor shooting, Harvard was able to close to within four points with less than a minute left to play in the game. A Merchant lay-up pulled the score to 45-41 with 48 seconds left to play. The Crimson called a timeout and it looked as though Harvard could rally to tie the game. As it would turn out, though, those were the last points the Crimson would score on the evening.
On the ensuing play after the timeout sophomore forward Ryan Butt blew open a Terrier fast-break that culminated in a lay-up by freshman guard Chaz Carr. Carr and Butt ended up leading the Terriers in scoring with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
The final 38 seconds were a microcosm of the entire game for Harvard as the Crimson missed three three-pointers and two lay-ups.
“I really can’t explain [the poor shooting],”Sullivan said. “It was also really disconcerting to miss so many free throws.”
The loss marks Harvard’s first defeat to an America East team in its last eight contests. Harvard looks to rebound against Colgate this weekend at Lavietes Pavilion.