The apparel marked the homecoming of the Harvard sophomore guard to his former stomping grounds in Palo Alto, as whole contingents of friends and family came to see his college team appear in three games during the Basketball Travelers Classic.
The show began with a disappointing scoreless night in the Crimson’s tournament and season opener against No. 23 Stanford, an embarrassing 111-56 defeat. It gathered steam Saturday as Lin poured in a career-high 15 points, including three second-half three-pointers, in a closer-than-it-sounds 79-61 loss to UC Santa Barbara. And it culminated on Sunday, when Lin re-established his personal best with 17 points and typified the aggressive, running style that catapulted Harvard to its first win under new head coach Tommy Amaker—an impressive 90-60 throttling of Northwestern State.
“We’re hopeful to build on it,” Amaker said. “I think confidence-wise, spirit-wise, and psychologically, this is big for us to get our first win, and not only to win, but to play well.”
Lin was one of three Crimson players to post career highs in the matchup of the tournament’s two winless squads. Junior Andrew Pusar and sophomore Pat Magnarelli topped their previous bests in the first half alone as Harvard jumped out to a commanding 47-24 lead by the break. The Crimson opened the game on a 12-2 run and also ripped off an 11-0 string before intermission.
“I was really pleased how we started the game this afternoon,” Amaker said. “We always talk about trying to deserve victory…We deserved it throughout today. We fought, we defended, we set the tone early with how we want to defend and block out.”
The Crimson handled the Demons, denizens of the Southland Conference best known for their 14-over-3 upset of Iowa in the NCAA Tournament two years ago, by forcing turnovers, sharing the ball, and pushing the tempo. With both squads playing their third game in less than 48 hours, Harvard seemed by far the fresher club. The Crimson was consistently able to get ahead of the defense in transition and convert layups—it shot over 59 percent from the floor and racked up 27 assists on 36 field goals, four shy of the single-game school record. Northwestern State committed 25 turnovers and shot under 35 percent for the game, including only 6-of-24 three-point makes.
“We like to play in the open court because we have big [men] that can run and we have guards that can run,” Lin said.
Local boy Lin showed his full array of skills in the victory. He knocked down a pair of treys, finished nifty lay-ins at the rim, distributed the ball, and played swarming defense. His five assists and four steals were also career highs.
Lin’s former coach at Palo Alto High School, Peter Diepenbrock, remembers the versatility and team-first mentality that distinguished him during the Vikings’ Division II state title campaign in 2006.
“He was just a person that totally got [that] it was about winning,” Lin said. “Especially at the high school level, that’s very rare. Kids are normally caught up in their own deal, and have their own agendas, but that’s what made him stand out.”
And Lin was appreciative of the crowd support that sustained him during his rollercoaster weekend.
“That means everything in the world to me, because that’s my family and that’s my friends,” he said. “Friday night was the worst night I’ve had in a very long time. I had to play better…that was basically my only option. Just try to come out, be aggressive, stay aggressive, and my teammates did a great job of helping me get open and passing me the ball.”
All five starters finished in double figures for Harvard. Pusar led all scorers with 20 points, Magnarelli had 18 points and 11 rebounds for his first double-double, while juniors Evan Harris and Drew Housman, who was named to the all-tournament team, notched 11 and 10, respectively. Trey Gilder paced the Demons with 16.
—Staff writer Jonathan Lehman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.