STANFORD, Calif.—Harvard was tied with UC Santa Barbara with less than eight minutes remaining, but the Gauchos pulled away late to hand the Crimson its second straight loss to begin the season, 79-61, on Saturday.
After getting blown out in the opening minutes of its meeting with No. 23 Stanford the night before, Harvard began its middle game of the Basketball Travelers Classic at Maples Pavilion by trading baskets with the preseason favorites in the Big West Conference.
“I thought we showed a lot of signs of batting back from a really tough, disappointing performance yesterday,” said Tommy Amaker, who fell to 0-2 as the Harvard head coach. “I was pleased with some of the growth we showed from one game to the next, and I thought we had an opportunity there, but they broke it open late in the second half. We were fighting toe-to-toe with them for a long period of time.”
There were 10 lead changes and four ties before halftime, and the Crimson headed into the break trailing by only three points at 30-27.
“Coach basically stressed if we didn’t get out to a good start, it was not going to be good practices when we got back,” said junior point guard Drew Housman. “He was going to kill us. It was good to play with some energy.”
Housman tied the contest at 37 with 14:28 left and sophomore guard Jeremy Lin tied it at 52 at the 7:53 mark with his third three-pointer in a four-plus-minute span. But then Santa Barbara embarked on a 10-0 run, sparked by a Justin Joyner longball over Housman, and pushed its edge to as many as 19 points as Harvard faded in the waning minutes.
“We were in there until the last five minutes, when we unraveled,” Housman said. “And I think that says a lot, because they’re a good team.”
As much as Housman keyed the Crimson’s early push with his dribble penetration and passing, his lack of scoring down the stretch coincided with the Gauchos’ decisive push. Of Harvard’s first 24 points, he scored 11 of them and assisted on six more. But Housman, who finished with 18 points and four assists, managed just two free throws over the final 8:26 as the Crimson struggled to make up its sudden deficit.
“We stopped getting defensive stops,” Housman said. “When your shot’s not falling and theirs is…that whole run started when that guy hit that three in my face.”
On the defensive end, Harvard held Santa Barbara star Alex Harris to seven points in the first half, but the 6’6 swingman wound up with 24 (and seven rebounds) on 8-of-17 shooting from the floor and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line. Thickly mustachioed reserve forward Nedim Pajevic also hurt the Crimson with 16 points, many of them on short jumpers over Evan Harris.
Harvard continued to display a knack for getting to the charity stripe—and for clanging free throws off the iron. The Crimson shot 16-of-26 from the line, in addition to committing 22 turnovers and allowing the Gauchos to shoot 50 percent from the field.
“We didn’t score for a stretch there that really hurt us,“ Amaker said. “I thought that really took the wind out of our sails. And again, I thought we shot poorly from the foul line.”
Lin, who played his high school ball down the street from Maples, posted a career-high 15 points, and Harris nabbed a game-high eight rebounds but scored only three points.
—Staff writer Jonathan Lehman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.