That was the first contest of a five game road series that has thus far proven disappointing for the Crimson, who lost road games against Penn and Princeton last weekend. Harvard looks to rebound from its three-game losing streak against the Bulldogs tonight and Brown tomorrow night to wrap up its road trip, but does not want to dwell on its recent defeats.
“It was a tough weekend with two losses,” said junior guard Andrew Pusar, “but given the fact that the league is still up for grabs, we still think we’re competitive and can win a lot of games. We just want to regroup and keep a positive mentality.”
HARVARD AT YALE — Fri., 7pm
The contest against Yale (7-11, 1-3 Ivy) could be the Crimson’s (6-14, 1-3 Ivy) best bet to end their streak in the “L” column. The Bulldogs have not yet met the high expectations that were set in the preseason Ivy League poll, in which they were slated to be the second best team behind Cornell.
Home court advantage, however, could prove to be the deciding factor in this battle between two teams itching to prove their worth—and Yale is not making it any easier. The team has scheduled tonight’s game to be a “Bulldog Blue-Out,” encouraging fans to pack the stands and wear Yale’s team color.
Harvard has been one of the Ivy’s hottest-shooting teams this season, scoring in 46.2 percent of their shots, bested only by Cornell. Unfortunately for the Crimson, the Bulldogs are just behind at 44.7 percent, so shooting defense will be key in tonight’s game.
“The Ivy League is challenging in that it’s a very good shooting league,” said Pusar, “If we can limit a team’s three-point shooting, it can certainly help our defense and lead to some wins.”
Of course, shutting down Yale’s best long-distance shooters—especially senior guard Caleb Holmes, who is making 41 percent of his shots from downtown—would cripple their offense. Getting the hot hand against them, though, seems to have worked well for their opponents this season—the Bulldogs are allowing Ivy teams to shoot better then 42 percent from long range this season.
Yale has developed a double-pronged attack against conference opponents this season, however, with junior forward Ross Morin breaking out, scoring 14.4 points per game against Ivy rivals. He earned his second double-double of the season last weekend, scoring 10 and pulling in 11 rebounds in a loss against league leader Cornell.
“They’re a tough team—they have a pretty good inside-outside combo,” Pusar said. “We have to play good help defense and communicate so we can limit their looks from the outside.”
HARVARD AT BROWN — Sat., 7pm
Harvard completes its road trip tomorrow night against Brown at the Pizzitola Sports Center. The Bears (10-8, 2-2 Ivy) are coming off a close win at home against Columbia. Brown has an even 1-1 series against Yale this season, which pits this weekend’s games for the Crimson to be closely competitive.
Three-point shooting will again be a prime defensive target against the Bears, who are shooting 39.4 percent from long range, led only by Cornell. However, Brown’s three-point defense has been even worse than their Bulldog counterparts this season, and they are allowing a second-worst 38.3 perecent defensive three-point percentage.
The Crimson, who is evenly matched with the Bears in rebounding and assists, will look to shoot well and guard the outside to stop Brown’s offensive attack.
Harvard has been experimenting with roster changes the past few games, including swapping junior guard Drew Housman’s usual starting spot for freshman T.J. Carey, who has started the past five games. Sophomore Jeremy Lin has embraced his first starting season at guard, though, and remains to be one of the bright spots on the team. He leads Harvard in scoring, assists, and steals, and is also averaging 5.0 rebounds a game.
“Each game has different matchups and we’re trying to figure out what works best,” said Pusar. “Luckily we’re very deep—we have a lot of young guys and at the same time a bunch of veterans. Coach Amaker is just trying to find the lineup that best fits.”
One of the biggest roster changes has resulted from the injury of sophomore forward Pat Magnarelli, who hurt his leg in the first minute of the Crimson’s road trip. He has averaged 10.8 points per game this season, but will not return this weekend for either game because of the nagging injury. Harvard coach Tommy Amaker has started junior Evan Harris and freshman Kyle Fitzgerald in Magnarelli’s stead.
“I think we’re excited to keep going on the road,” said Pusar. “We’re sick and tired of losing on the road. We want another opportunity. We need to finish off these close games, and it will do a lot for our confidence to do that.”
—Staff writer Paul T. Hedrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org