If this season’s eighth win is any indication, the Tommy Amaker era has finally begun for the Crimson.
Last night, Harvard (8-6) stormed into Conte Forum and grabbed a stunning 82-70 victory over No. 17 Boston College in front of 3,174 shocked fans, just three days after the Eagles upset then-No. 1 North Carolina 85-78.
Led by yet another terrific performance by junior guard Jeremy Lin, who posted a game-high 27 points, Harvard was able to notch its first-ever win over a ranked opponent, ending BC’s 10-game winning streak in the process. It was also its first win over the Eagles (13-3, 1-0 ACC) since a 62-61 victory on Nov. 18, 1998.
“I can’t give enough credit to Jeremy and the rest of our kids for the effort they put forth,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “Defensively, we were tremendous. We were very scrappy. That’s the calling card for our team.”
Harvard jumped on BC from the outset, taking a 33-27 lead over a sluggish Eagles’ squad into halftime. And just 12 seconds into the second frame, the Crimson proved it would not back down.
With BC All-American guard Tyrese Rice running the offense, Lin stripped him of the ball and broke away for a layup. Senior guard Drew Housman faked and blew by Rice for another layup on the next possession.
After a bucket from captain Andrew Pusar and a defensive stop on the other end, Lin drilled a three to cap the Crimson’s quick 9-4 run to go up 42-31. Aided by the loud crowd behind it, BC responded in force and trailed just 49-43 with 11:42 left.
But that was as close as the Eagles would get, as Lin answered with a long three in front of Corey Raji, kick-starting a 17-7 run.
Harvard shot the lights out in the second frame, making 14-of-23 field goals. BC never saw it coming, especially after such a solid defensive effort against UNC.
“In the second half, we didn’t defend them at all,” Eagles coach Al Skinner said. “They shot 60 percent. We just didn’t get ourselves ready to play the way we should have.”
The group that paced this dominating performance late was made up of Lin, Miller, Pusar, freshman Peter Boehm, and classmate Oliver McNally. All five stayed on from the 9:40 mark until the game became a free-throw shooting contest in the final minute. For most, it was their standout game of the season.
McNally had a career-high 17 points, Miller grabbed a career-best nine boards against taller BC post players, and Pusar had a season-high 13 points. Boehm shook off earlier struggles to nail a huge three at the 9:05 mark a fraction of a second before the shot clock expired.
“We have a lot of capable offensive threats,” Lin said. “Doug [Miller] played very well down low, and Oliver [McNally], as a freshman, came in and hit big shots.”
Lin quite possibly had the game of his career. The junior posted a surreal stat line, shooting 11-of-16 from the floor, dishing out eight assists against two turnovers, and adding six steals to flabbergast the Eagle ballhanders.
Defensively, he went head-to-head with an All-American guard, Rice, who had just torched UNC for 25 points in the previous game.
Rice, BC’s leading scorer entering the contest, had just three points until there was 4:02 remaining in the game. He finished with 14 points.
BC did make things close again in the final minutes, cutting the deficit to 70-63 after Rice made three free throws with 49 ticks left.
But the Crimson players kept their nerves.
Lin and McNally nailed all of their free throws in one-and-one situations near game’s end, with the freshman doing that feat twice.
“They controlled the game, controlled the tempo, did the things they had to do,” Skinner said.
“We had our opportunities, we just didn’t sustain them. We just thought things would eventually turn our way, we did not go out and earn it, whereas Harvard, particularly in the second half, came out and earned everything it got,” he added.
For most of the first half, a Crimson win seemed unlikely. Slow starts on offense by both teams saw Harvard down 17-11 with 9:23 left in the half.
Pusar then nailed a three, and the next time down the floor, McNally drove, pump-faked, and was fouled as his layup dropped in. After his free throw, Harvard never trailed again.
After Lin found Pusar for a fast-break layup, Miller took charge on the other end, emphatically swatting guard Reggie Jackson’s layup attempt off the backboard.
The block led to a fast-break hoop for Lin and an Eagles timeout.
Unfortunately for the BC coach, that break did little to stall the momentum, as by the end of the half, the Eagles had 10 turnovers to seven for their guests and their Wooden Award candidate Rice was scoreless.
“They played hard, we did not,” Skinner said.
Did they ever.
—Staff writer Ted Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.