Any concern that Harvard men’s basketball would overlook Penn in anticipation of league-leader Princeton was wiped away in the first 20 minutes of Friday night’s game at Lavietes Pavilion.
In its best first half of the season, the Crimson jumped out to a 13-point lead in the first 10 minutes and increased the margin up to 22 points by halftime.
“I thought we played a tremendous first 20 minutes,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “I thought our defense was outstanding, [and] I thought we had great energy.”
Coming off its second league loss of the season, the Crimson’s conference title hopes depended on a win over the Quakers, a fact that was not lost on Harvard.
“A lot of people were saying that we might be looking ahead to Princeton and overlook [Penn],” sophomore guard Brandyn Curry said. “That’s how a lot of teams lose games, so our focus was to come out and get on them early.”
The key to the Crimson’s early success was ball movement.
In the first half, Harvard recorded assists on 14 of its 17 first-half field goals, and it had balanced production between the post and the perimeter.
“We shot the ball well, but we were unselfish,” Amaker said. “[We] had great opportunities because of great ball movement.”
The Crimson’s efficiency on offense in the first half was matched by its effectiveness on defense.
Harvard forced 11 turnovers in the first frame while holding the Quakers to 9-of-21 shooting from the field.
The Crimson backcourt largely neutralized Penn’s playmaking guard Zack Rosen, holding him to one-of-five shooting in the first half.
“To guard Zach Rosen can be a nightmare,” Amaker said. “We had to do it as a group, as a team.”
DIALED IN FROM DISTANCE
Harvard was able to generate offense from behind the three-point line all night long.
Off drives and kick outs, the Crimson created a number of open looks from deep, which it was consistently able to knock down.