NOTEBOOK: Crimson Amped by Second-Half Push

Coach Tommy Amaker might moonlight for a certain energy drink company. With a 32-20 deficit glaring on the scoreboard at halftime, his players needed a major pick-me-up to reverse the tide of the game and construct a substantial comeback against a cruising Brown team. And in a few short minutes, Amaker gave them wings.

To start the second half, junior guard Jeremy Lin first drove the ball in for a layup before accepting a pass from senior guard Drew Housman and launching a three pointer on Harvard’s next possession. Lin’s five points started a 13-2 run that brought the Crimson to within one possession of catching Brown.

“The phrase we used was trust your shot and stop overthinking it or guiding it,” Amaker said.

More importantly, it gave the squad some momentum heading into the rest of a game that it would ultimately win in the final second. Such momentum represented a dramatic difference from the first period, when Harvard shot 30.4 percent from the field despite a number of open looks.

“We knew that we were getting good shots on offense and they just weren’t falling,” senior forward Evan Harris said. “That first real series kind of catapulted us to a nice run.”

After going 1-for-6 on three point attempts in the first period, Harvard hit 6-for-10 from long range in the second. Field goal percentage jumped up to 51.7 percent, and the Crimson went 8-for-9 in free throws including a 5-for-5 performance from Lin.

Increased success on offense boosted defensive play; after allowing Brown guard Peter Sullivan to score 15 points in the first, Harvard put the kibosh on the guard and limited him to only five points in the second. The Crimson also limited turnovers.

“Taking care of the ball leads to that offensive efficiency,” Amaker said.

Prior to its amped-up play in the second period, though, things looked bleak for the men’s squad. Harvard was 7-23 from inside the arch in the first and coughed the ball up nine times to the second lowest-ranked scoring defense in the Ivies. A lack of communication was evident in several misdirected passes and quick, failed possessions.

SENIOR SURVEY

At the helm of the team’s second half comeback were three seniors: senior captain Andrew Pusar, Housman and Harris.

Harris dropped a monster block in the final few seconds of the second half to secure the next game-winning possession. But Harris contributed far more than one play. After watching from the bench for several weeks due to a knee injury, the senior stepped up and onto the court for 36 minutes against Brown.

Harris earned a double-double by going 5-for-12 from inside, 2-for-4 on the free throw line and grabbing 11 rebounds. In addition to the climactic stuff of Brown forward Matt Mullery, Harris contributed two more blocks during the second to maintain the Crimson’s hyped-up defensive rhythm.

“Evan was doing a really good job for us,” Amaker said. “At times we were kind of four perimeter players and Evan. We kind of put him in the hole there.”

Housman and captain guard Andrew Pusar also put up big minutes for the Crimson in the midst of a shallow bench, playing for 36 and 27 minutes, respectively. The two combined for 13 points in the second period, nine of which came off of tres that were instrumental to Harvard’s comeback.

STREAK SNAPPED

The team’s first home win halts a disappointing start to the Ivy season. After starting out with a tight win over Dartmouth, the men’s team lost the ensuing four conference games—all at home. The series of losses was all too similar to last year when Harvard opened Ivy League play by falling in seven games before it finally earning a victory against Princeton last Feb. 22.

The Crimson tied for last in the conference in the 2007-08 season, a feat that none of the players would like to see repeated. A fifth straight loss to a Bears team that had yet to win an Ivy matchup could have sent Harvard down a similar disappointing path this season, but the second half heroics prevented a slide equivalent to that of last year.

“We were in a slump and we had one half left this weekend,” Lin said. “We took it upon ourselves to be tough, to get boards, to make plays.”

—Staff writer Emmett Kistler can be reached at ekistler@fas.harvard.edu.

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