An outclassed Harvard men’s basketball team suffered another crunching at the hands of two-time defending league champion Penn on Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion, dropping its fifth straight game on the season, and 11th straight to the Quakers, 83-67. The Crimson’s crumbling during the stretch drive of the Ivy slate has come to closely resemble last season’s end-of-year collapse, when Harvard went through an agonizing stretch of eight straight losses.
But if you tuned in at the right time in the game against the Quakers—specifically, if you were watching with about eight minutes gone by in the second half—you would have come away with a much more optimistic take on the blowout loss, as well as the disappointing season it encapsulated.
That was around the time when, with the Crimson behind by 21, freshman guard Jeremy Lin checked into the game, and immediately ignited a stagnating Harvard offense with a bolt of energy. Lin zipped a no-look pass across the paint to freshman forward Pat Magnarelli, open under the hoop for a two-point conversion. Lin then skied for a defensive rebound, and on the team’s next possession drove the lane and finished with a pretty floater.
For his next act, the freshman combo guard picked the pocket of Penn guard Kevin Egee in the open court and managed to hang in the air just long enough to put in the fast-break layup while drawing a foul. The made free throw cut the lead down to 64-50.
Two minutes later, a Magnarelli jumper off another crisp Lin feed and two more Lin free throws pulled the team within 12, the closest Harvard would get to a comeback.
Lin was able to change the pace of the Harvard attack, at least for a short period before Penn again pulled away, by forcefully and quickly pushing the ball up the court, catching a contented Quakers defense unaware.
“He’s sneaky, athletic, and can get into the lane,” Penn coach Glen Miller said. “As his perimeter shot starts to develop a little more and he has more confidence in it, he’s going to be a very good player.”
“It was a good game for Jeremy, because he is that kind of [aggressive] player, when [the tempo] goes up and down,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan added. “He had a couple good assists and he had a couple [assists] that didn’t get hooked up.”
Those assists, including the potential ones that weren’t finished by teammates, came mostly via the spectacular no-look feed, that most exciting and crowd-rousing of passes that is quickly becoming the flashy freshman’s specialty. Lin, who ranks second on the team with 45 helpers, says that he learned the artistry of the no-look while running the offense for his high school in Palo Alto, Calif.
“It’s something that my high school coach taught me, being able to see the floor and make passes without looking,” Lin said. “I’m just trying to come in and do whatever I can do for the team.”
Lin finished with a career-high-tying 12 points on 2-of-4 shooting and a perfect 8-of-8 performance at the free-throw line in 16 minutes, including the game’s final one, when Sullivan let his five active freshman (Lin, Magnarelli, and guards Darryl Finkton, Alek Blankenau, and Ndu Okereke) get some experience playing with each other.
“We’re all developing, so any time we get to play together, it’s always fun—kind of like foreshadowing the future,” Lin said.
In an otherwise dismal evening of competition, the game’s final possessions—which featured fiery play on the part of Harvard’s freshmen, with a double technical foul being assessed at the half-minute mark—served as an intriguing glimpse into the future of Harvard basketball for the 2,000 fans in attendance at Lavietes.
It is a future that gets a little closer to fruition with each no-look dish Lin serves up.
—Staff writer Caleb W. Peiffer can be reached at email@example.com.