NOTEBOOK: History Not Repeated In Victory over Quakers

Free throws, bounces go Crimson’s way in road

PHILADELPHIA—In trying to grab its first win at the Palestra since 1991—also the last time Harvard got a victory on the tough Princeton-Penn road trip—the Harvard men’s basketball team needed to correct the mistakes that contributed to its murky past on the “Killer P’s” road trip.

The Crimson took advantage of many of the little things that had gone against it in its loss at Princeton the previous night as well as its 66-60 loss at home to the Quakers earlier this month to win by the same score.

With Penn, hampered by a mix of failing to get loose balls and poor free throw shooting in those losses, the tables were turned on Saturday.

Harvard shot just 7-of-16 from the foul line in the earlier fixture, but this time, Penn was just 14-of-25. While the Crimson got unlucky bounces on balls in those other losses, this time, after senior guard Drew Housman made the first free throw to tie the game at 56-56 with 2:16 left, the second went off the rim and straight to captain guard Andrew Pusar on the block.

One minute and one more offensive rebound later, the team was on top.

Then, after the Quakers tied it up, junior guard Jeremy Lin led a break up the court, but his intended pass for Pusar was blocked by Penn defenders. But Pusar was first to the ball again.

With a three-point lead after Lin’s three, the Crimson gave nothing away at the foul line. Pusar hit one of two, but after a Penn hoop with 15 ticks made it 62-60, Lin would hit all four of his foul shots over two trips and the team would take a deserved-late game victory.

“These are life lessons, you can deserve something sometimes and not get it,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “I thought in my heart we deserved it.”

THE WRIGHT STUFF

With the frontcourt decimated by injuries coming into the game and Lin hobbled by a hurt ankle, the rest of the team had to step up. One player who did so in a big way was freshman forward Keith Wright. The big man followed a fine performance Friday with 13 points and a team-best seven rebounds. 11 of his baskets came in the first half, where he routinely posted up the Penn defenders and led his team to a 29-26 halftime lead.

“Coach kept telling me to post up hard, so that’s what I do,” Wright said. “The guards tell me they are going to look inside-out so they pass the ball in to me and trust me to make the smart play, the right play.”

The best defense against him was foul trouble. He picked up his third foul three minutes into the second half and stayed on the floor to get his fourth a minute-and-a-half later while trying to receive a pass. But senior Evan Harris fouled out soon and freshman reserve Peter Swiatek, who played just four minutes in the Ivy season so far, had trouble against the impressive Quaker frontline, as he picked up four fouls in seven minutes. So Wright came back for good with just under 10 minutes left and played most of the rest of the game, with just a few breaks here and there.

“Not everything is going to go our way in the game,” he said. “Coach tells us all the time and next play we got to keep our head up. We knew we had to play smart but we also had to still play hard. I went in with my fourth foul and coach told me to play hard, play my game.”

The fifth foul never came and Wright got another bucket with a nice spin on Penn forward Cameron Lewis to pull his team within one at 53-52 with five minutes left.

NOT SO KILLER P

One of the most perplexing happenings in the league this season has been Penn’s play at home. The perennial Ivy contender has looked the part on the road, where it is 4-1, but at home, the Quakers are a surprising 0-4.

Two weeks ago, Penn was swept at home by Cornell and Columbia, the first time it lost both weekend games at home in the league since 1968. And yet it happened again the next time up, with Harvard’s victory coming on the heels of Dartmouth’s 69-59 win the night before. A sign of the Quaker’s former dominance over those two northern schools is that in the 51 previous weekends those teams took a trip down to Philadelphia, Penn had never lost both games. That has changed now and Quakers look set for a second-straight mediocre Ivy season after winning the championship the previous three years.

“I can’t get back tonight and I can’t get back last night,” Penn coach Glen Miller said. “It doesn’t do any good to dwell on it, you have to try and evaluate things and get better.”

—Staff writer Ted Kirby can be reached at tjkirby@fas.harvard.edu.

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