Harvard entered Saturday night’s game against Dartmouth as the top free-throw shooting team in the Ivy League. By the end of the night, it had slipped both in the stats and in the standings.
After connecting on just 17 of 27 freebies in a 75-66 overtime loss, the Crimson didn’t have to look far for an explanation. As the Big Green gained momentum by scoring on four of its first five overtime possessions, captain Andrew Pusar and junior guard Jeremy Lin each converted just one of two attempts on consecutive Harvard trips to the line.
With under four minutes to go in regulation, the Crimson missed free opportunities to tie the game and close the deficit eventually erased only briefly by Pusar’s clutch three and Lin’s last-second layup.
The Crimson’s troubles started and ended with Lin, who entered the game shooting at an 80-percent clip from the charity stripe. Harvard’s leading scorer shot just 6-of-11 from the line Saturday.
Lin’s late-game misses both from the line and the floor betrayed fatigue, as a few of his shots just caught the front rim
“I need to go back and work on that,” Lin, who still finished with 21 points to lead the Crimson, said of his shooting struggles.
Dartmouth didn’t have its best night at the line either—the Big Green connected on just 63.6 percent of its free throws, including three big ones as Harvard mounted its comeback in the waning minutes of regulation.
Both Lin and Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker were quick to downplay the notion that the team’s recent two-week break for exams had anything to do with its poor free throw shooting in particular or its performance overall.
“Obviously the placement of [exams] doesn’t fare well for us, but it’s not an excuse,” Amaker said. “We didn’t shoot foul shots well, we didn’t take care of the ball, and if you don’t do those things in a game like this, you’re probably not going to win.”
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
Lin ended the night as the team’s leading scorer, but junior center Doug Miller had one of his more dominant stretches in a Crimson uniform when he scored on four of Harvard’s first six second-half possessions to pull his team to within one with 16:24 to play in regulation.
The junior started with a pretty spin move in the lane for an easy two, then hit two free throws after pulling down the offensive board on a missed layup from Lin.
Dartmouth star Alex Barnett followed at the other end with a tough jumper, but Miller quickly responded with two on a turnaround fall-away on the baseline.
By that point, Miller’s teammates knew he was hot—on the next time down the floor, Lin found his center open under the basket for an easy lay-up.
“Doug is a hard-nosed player and he’s going to come ready to play every day,” Lin said. “We’re not surprised, but we’re very thankful for that.”
The final buzzer saw the junior finish with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in 17 minutes.
Despite his hot hand, Miller found himself on the bench down the stretch at the end of regulation and in overtime. Amaker cited freshman Keith Wright’s success on the boards (13 rebounds) as the reason for Miller’s absence. Miller had four rebounds.
“We went with the kind of lineup that got us into overtime,” Amaker said. “We go with the lineups that are clicking for us and matching up well for us.”
Senior guard Drew Housman, who started the game alongside Miller and scored five points, was also absent during Harvard’s stretch run and played just 14 total minutes.
While Barnett’s 30 points jumped off the stat sheet, another eye-popping statistic—turnovers—may have sealed the overtime contest in favor of the visitors. The Crimson committed 17 turnovers on the night, while the Big Green recorded just six.
One botched play with 1:40 to go in regulation may have been just one of those 17, but will burn in the mind of freshman guard Peter Boehm (six points). With Harvard inbounding at midcourt and trailing by three, Boehm received the ball and promptly passed it back across the midcourt line to classmate Oliver McNally. The backcourt violation ended a Crimson scoring chance before it had even begun.
“It’s disappointing some of the time, when some of the turnovers we had we didn’t feel were forced,” Amaker said. “Those are the ones that bother me the most.”
Boehm—and the Crimson—was redeemed when Harvard rallied to reach overtime on Pusar and Lin’s clutch conversions. But in the extra period, the Crimson scored just four points while committing three more turnovers.
“We had so many chances to win tonight,” Lin said. “We have no one to blame but ourselves.”
—Staff writer Emily W. Cunningham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.