The Crimson (1-2) kicked off its season with a mismatch against the 23rd-ranked host Cardinal on Friday night and suffered a 55-point loss, its worst in 18 years. A strong mid-major team, UC Santa Barbara, surged past Harvard in the second half on Saturday, but the Crimson rallied to blow out Northwestern State on Sunday for its first win of the Amaker Era.
“We’re hopeful to build on it,” Amaker said of the explosive 90-60 victory. “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.”
Harvard has its home opener on Friday night against Mercer, which upset USC this weekend.
HARVARD 90, NORTHWESTERN ST. 60
Sophomore guard and Palo Alto, Calif., native Jeremy Lin, supported by dozens of family and friends in the crowd wearing T-shirts designed for the occasion, scored a career-high 17 points and typified the aggressive, running style that catapulted Harvard to its first win under Amaker—an impressive 90-60 throttling of Northwestern State (0-3).
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 streak 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.”
The Crimson handled the Demons 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, shooting over 59 percent from the floor and racking up 27 assists—four shy of the single-game school record—on 36 field goals.
“We like to play in the open court because we have bigs that can run and we have guards that can run,” Lin said.
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.
UCSB 79, HARVARD 61
Harvard was tied with UC Santa Barbara (2-1) 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 Stanford the night before, Harvard began the game 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 Amaker, who fell to 0-2 as the Harvard head coach. “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.
Housman tied the contest at 37 with 14:28 left, and 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,” said Housman, who finished with 18 points and four assists. “And I think that says a lot, because they’re a good team.”
STANFORD 111, HARVARD 56
The Amaker Era started with a bang—a resounding 55-point loss.
Harvard dropped its season opener, 111-56, to Stanford, the tournament’s hosts on Friday night.
The bigger and more skilled Cardinal (3-0) blitzed the Crimson out of the gates, jumping out to early leads of 19-3 and 42-17 en route to a 65-28 halftime cushion. Stanford hit the 80-point mark less than five minutes into the second half and reached triple digits with over six minutes to play.
“We were bigger and stronger at every position,” said Stanford head coach Trent Johnson. “But what they were running offensively, they got some good shots. And they kept competing, so it’s just going to be a matter of time.”
Harris led Harvard with 14 points and six rebounds, and Housman chipped in 10. The Crimson was dramatically out-rebounded, 50-19, had assists on only seven of its 19 baskets, and committed 19 turnovers. The team also had a miserable showing at the free-throw line, where it converted only 15 of 31 attempts.
The blowout afforded Amaker the chance to empty his bench. All 13 players who were dressed for the game saw the floor, and 25 of the squad’s 56 points were scored by reserves. Sophomore Dan McGeary, a transfer from New Hampshire, paced the substitutes with nine points, while freshman forward Kyle Fitzgerald added eight.
“It comes to a point where it’s about pride,” Fitzgerald said. “The score, we knew we couldn’t come back, but it’s about each individual possession and making stops and showing that you’re not going to give up.”
It was Harvard’s worst defeat since it opened the 1989-90 season at Duke and suffered a 130-54 drubbing at the hands of the Blue Devils. Coincidentally, Amaker served as an assistant coach for that Duke team.
—Staff writer Jonathan Lehman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.