NOTEBOOK: Big Men Dominate Rivalry Matchup
Friday night’s game between Harvard men’s basketball and Yale carried big implications for the Ivy title race, but both teams’ defense seemed to take the night off.
The Crimson allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 52.1 percent from the field and 61.5 percent from three. Yale was hardly better, as Harvard hit 50.9 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent from deep.
“Neither one of us seemed like we could stop the other team,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “We didn’t get many stops, and neither did they.”
A showdown in the low post was expected coming into the game, and, in that respect, each team delivered. The Bulldogs’ big men, Greg Mangano and Jeremiah Kreisberg, combined to shoot 13-of-22 for 31 points, and Harvard’s post duo of junior co-captain Keith Wright and sophomore Kyle Casey went 16-of-26 and tallied 35 points.
Unexpected, however, was Yale’s offensive onslaught from behind the arc. Bulldogs guard Austin Morgan hit 4-of-4 three-point attempts—his only four made field goals—en route to a game-high 22 points, and Mangano nailed three treys of his own.
“[Mangano] is very versatile…He’s not your traditional big,” Wright said. “He can score down low, and he can also hit the three, as we saw.”
Harvard did manage a couple of key defensive stops down the stretch. With 44 seconds remaining and the Crimson leading, 72-70, Yale guard Reggie Willhite missed a runner on the baseline, and Kreisberg missed the put-back. Then, after Harvard extended the lead to 76-72, a wild three by Mangano with 11 seconds left clanked off the backboard and the rim and effectively sealed the win for the Crimson.
Though it improved in the final minute of action, the general sloppiness of Harvard’s defensive execution left a bitter aftertaste to the victory.
“We came out really slow [and] played pretty poor defensively,” Casey said. “Overall, we’ve got to pick it up a little bit.”
On a night in which the Crimson and the Bulldogs were neck-and-neck—the game saw 13 lead changes and 11 ties—one statistical category was decidedly in Harvard’s favor: bench scoring. The Crimson bench outscored its Yale counterpart, 25-6.
Freshman guard Laurent Rivard chipped in 14 points in 22 minutes off the pine, and his backcourt classmate Matt Brown tallied six points in 18 minutes of action. But no minutes may have been more valuable than the nine of sophomore forward Jeff Georgatos.
“I thought Jeff Georgatos played really well for us,” Amaker said. “He was really a catalyst to help us from our bench, and I was very pleased with his production.”
In a 3:34 shift early in the second half, Georgatos first scored by posting up on the left block, then with 12:08 remaining, made one of the most decisive plays in the game. Receiving the ball at the top of the key, he put the ball on the floor and drove down the middle of the lane. Drawing contact from Mangano, Georgatos not only finished a difficult shot, but the Yale center was whistled for his fourth foul of the night, relegating him to the bench for the next six minutes.
Georgatos hit the free throw to complete the three-point play and give Harvard the lead, in the process denying Yale its biggest weapon for a crucial stretch of the second half.
“Jeff came out and gave us some key minutes tonight,” Wright said. “He’s definitely capable of scoring down low. It’s all about confidence in the game, and he’s definitely building his confidence.”
WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK
Contributing to the defensive sloppiness was the tight officiating. The Crimson and the Bulldogs committed a combined 43 fouls. In the first half, both teams were in the bonus by the 11:39 mark. In the second half, Harvard reached the bonus by 9:44 and Yale starting shooting one-and-one at 5:56.
Harvard’s guards, in particular, struggled with the style of the game. Junior co-captain Oliver McNally and sophomore Brandyn Curry, tasked with guarding Morgan, repeatedly sent the Bulldogs guard to the line, where he hit all 10 attempts. McNally fouled out with 1:37 remaining.