NOTEBOOK: Post Play Remains Harvard's Achilles' Heel

NEW YORK—Fundamentals proved to be the the downfall for the Harvard men’s basketball team on a night where the shots weren’t falling and the bigs weren’t blocking.

Playing Columbia in the not so friendly confines of Harlem, New York, the Crimson were out-gunned and out-manned down low in a continuing tale on interior tragedy.

Although in-the-paint troubles are nothing new for Harvard, the surprising cold spell in the shooting department proved particularly worrisome. After going off for 20-plus points on back-to-back nights last weekend, sophomore Jeremy Lin was held to 5-of-11 shooting for only 10 points.

The shooting bug afflicted all the guards on the team, as junior Drew Housman went 2-of-7 (11 points) and sophomore Dan McGeary shot 2-of-8 for only four points.

It was a surprising turn of events, considering the way Harvard came out of the gates in the first half. Opening up to a 17-4 lead, the Crimson was suddenly struck by the worst of all basketball ailments—cold shooting.

“We started strong, we had a great first six minutes,” Housman said. “And then our shots stopped falling.”

“I can’t really explain it, I don’t know what happened, we just had an off night,” Lin added.

Starting the game at a torrid pace that saw the Crimson jump out to a 17-4 lead only proved to be an aberration as the game progressed.

Wide-open threes and mid-range jumpers soon became adventures of peril and dread for Harvard’s shooters. After shooting 42 percent from the floor and 33 percent from three-point range, the Crimson made exactly one three in the second, going 1-for-12.

TWO AND A HALF MEN

Columbia’s interior combination of John Baumann and Ben Nwachukwu once again went off on the Crimson.

After combining for 36 points and 15 rebounds the first time they played Harvard, the two goliaths decided to up the ante at home with a combined 38 points and 21 rebounds.

Baumann particularly caused problems for the Crimson’s overmatched big men.

“Whatever minutes he had, look at the stats he had,” Amaker said. “We had no answers for him tonight. He was absolutely tremendous.”

Shooting 8-of-14 from the floor, Baumann’s presence on the inside forced Harvard’s hand to foul as juniors Evan Harris and Cem Dinc each picked up four fouls in the game.

While Baumann did most of his damage in the first half, Columbia’s Big Ben punished the weary travelers in the second. Despite his surprising inability to dunk (Considering his 6’8, 235-lb frame), Nwachukwu dominated on the blocks and won every loose ball battle.

“We were just trying to body up more when they got the ball in the post,” Harris said. “Coach talks about disengaging in the post and that’s kind of a bad habit that all our bigs have.”

“They’re just so big, they’re kind of like bulls,” he added. “They just kept moving me out of the way.”

Down by five with 5:09 remaining, Nwachukwu ripped the ball away from Harris as he went up for the defensive rebound and then forced it out on Harris. Two seconds later, the ball was inbounded right back to Nwachukwu for the easy basket. After that the Lions never looked back.

Only averaging 18 minutes per game on the season, Nwachukwu saw increased playing time against the Crimson (30 minutes) and answered the call with 10-of-12 shooting and 11 boards.

No other member of Columbia’s team approached double-digit scoring, but that proved to be an irrelevant statistic on a night where Baumann and Nwachukwu had their choice of fine dining options on the inside. Unfortunately for the Crimson, the team left New York City with nothing but cold takeout.

—Staff writer Mauricio A. Cruz can be reached at cruz2@fas.harvard.edu.

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