NEW YORK—As was the case all season, Harvard’s inability to make defensive stops cost it the game in Saturday night’s 76-66 loss at Columbia.
With 6’8 sophomore forward Evan Harris sidelined with a stress fracture in his left foot, Columbia’s big-man combo of John Baumann (6’8, 220 lbs.) and Ben Nwachukwu (6’9, 235 lbs.) exploited a short-handed Crimson interior defense to the tune of 33 total points on 13-of-18 shooting. The Lions shot 55 percent from the field overall, including a torrid 67 percent in the second half.
“The thing we certainly didn’t do tonight was low-post defense,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “Whether it be the footwork of the guy you’re guarding, or pressure on the passer. Our low-post package didn’t respond to the degree that it had to. And not having Evan certainly hurt us in that respect.”
The Crimson’s struggles on the defensive end are nothing new. Harvard allowed opponents to shoot 49 percent from field on the season. On Saturday night, the Crimson did show a sign of life in one defensive department that has been a weakness all year—guarding the three-point shot.
For the season, Harvard allowed opponents to shoot 37 percent from three-point range and connect on an average of 7.7 threes per contest. The Crimson, meanwhile, shot 32 percent from behind the arc, and averaged 4.8 three-point field goals per game. But Harvard’s perimeter defense snuffed Columbia’s long-range attack, holding the Lions to a 7-of-19 connect rate from downtown, and just 3-of-13 in the first half.
“The thing we talked about significantly was getting the three-point defense down,” Sullivan said. “That’s been a very important concept for us.”
The Harvard men’s 2006-2007 basketball season is over, but Sullivan is already salivating over next season’s potential starting backcourt of Jeremy Lin and Drew Housman.
“We’ve seen some really solid play from Jeremy and Drew,” Sullivan said. “I think that’s gonna be really neat to observe over the next couple of years.”
Housman struggled through Saturday night’s season finale—five points on 2-of-10 shooting, three assists, two turnovers in 37 minutes—but the point guard completed a very successful sophomore campaign that saw him average 13.3 points and 3.4 assists per game. Housman’s ability to break down an opposing defense off the dribble makes him a strong candidate to garner all-Ivy honors in the coming years.
Lin, who saw limited action as a freshman, continued to show the shooting touch, ball-handling, and athleticism against Columbia that could make him a major weapon over the next three seasons. After scoring nine points in only 14 minutes of action Friday night against Cornell, Lin had 10 points in 25 minutes—including two three pointers—versus the Lions. One of his three-pointers was a dazzling crossover, step-back release that drew some gasps from the crowd at Levien Gym, and his smooth no-look feed to an open Brian Darcy was the prettiest pass of the evening.
“Those are two guys that can make threes, can beat guys off the dribble, and two guys that are quality passers,” Sullivan said. “I think they’re gonna be really terrific.”
Sullivan said that Housman and Lin will “probably” be the starting backcourt for the Crimson in 2007-2008.