When Fordham comes to Lavietes Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, the Harvard men’s basketball team will get a chance to reverse history.
Last year, the Crimson (2-3) went into the contest ranked No. 21/22 against an unranked Rams team (2-4) that went 2-3 to open the 2011-12 season. It was, by all accounts, a matchup that favored an NCAA tournament-bound Harvard team built around two All-Ivy big men.
The Crimson was up, 27-24, after the first half and brought the score to a tie with three minutes to play in the second after falling behind in the opening minutes of the period.
But an invigorated Rams offense sealed the upset win with a three and a pair of free throws in front of a raucous home crowd.
Last year’s loss was a blip on Harvard’s radar as the team went on to win its next nine games, while the Rams finished 3-13 in the Atlantic 10.
This year, the situation is different. The Crimson lost its top four scorers from last season, and the team is trying to find its rhythm on both ends of the court and reverse its current two-game losing streak.
Despite putting up its second highest total of 78 points on Tuesday—including a career high 21 from sophomore forward Wesley Saunders—Harvard fell to an efficient Vermont offense which shot 60 percent from the field and amassed 85 points in the game, the most points allowed by the Crimson since 2010.
“We have been a very good defensive team, so it’s a little bit alarming to have a team shoot the way [Vermont] shot in the first half,” said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker after the loss on Tuesday.
Defensive breakdowns are not the only trend the team will seek to reverse against Fordham. With the exception of the season opener against MIT, the Crimson has consistently shot over 70 percent from the free throw line, but the number fell to 66, including 53 in the first half against the Catamounts after co-captain and wing Christian Webster—who ranked second in Harvard history in free throw shooting at the start of the season—missed his first five attempts.
When the Crimson takes the court on Saturday, Fordham will face an unfamiliar foe.
Of the five players who have started every game this season for Harvard, not one was in the starting lineup against the Rams last year.
The only freshman of the group, point guard Siyani Chambers, will look to build on a career high 16-point night against Vermont when he saw 39 minutes of playing time.
“We’ve got to get better ball pressure from [Chambers], but we are asking him to play almost the whole game, which becomes a little bit of a challenge,” Amaker said. “[He is the] quarterback of our team, and that’s a lot to throw at him as a first year kid.”
While the Crimson will bring fresh faces to the matchup, the Rams will play a veteran squad, returning four of the five who started against Harvard last year.
Sophomore guard Bryan Smith and senior forward Chris Gaston topped the scoreboard the last time out with 22 and 18 points, respectively.