Defense Leads Men's Basketball Past MIT in Season Opener

Emily C. Wong

Sophomore Wesley Saunders drives to the basket during the Harvard men's basketball team's 69-54 win over MIT on Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion. Saunders registered 11 points on six shots before leaving the game late in the second half with cramps.

The personnel may have been different, but the plot was the same.

In a game against Division III MIT that marked the first collegiate start for four Crimson players, the Harvard men’s basketball team relied once again on its stingy defense to secure a 69-54 win.

After the Engineers opened the game Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion on a 10-0 run, Harvard clamped down defensively over the final 36 minutes of play, holding the Engineers to 44 points on 32 percent shooting.

“Certainly coming out of the blocks they put us in a hole, but I thought our kids settled in and dug in,” said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, whose team responded to the 10-0 deficit with a 20-2 run. “We’re going to try and pressure and hopefully wear people down with how hard we play defensively.”

Harvard, which registered 10 blocks and nine steals, did enough on the other end of the court to maintain its lead, shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc.

Three Harvard players finished in double figures with sophomore forward Jonah Travis leading the way, registering 14 points on seven shots in 21 minutes off the bench.

“I loved how Jonah Travis played. I thought he gave us a toughness, an energy, and a grit around the goal,” Amaker said. “He’s an undersized post guy for us, but he uses that to his advantage with quickness…. He’s a heart-and-soul kind of kid. He’s going to put on his hard hat and bring his lunch pail and put his work boots on.”

In his first collegiate start, sophomore Wesley Saunders scored 11 points before leaving the game with leg cramps late in the second half.

Junior co-captain Laurent Rivard finished with 10 points despite attempting his first shot with just 2:25 remaining in the opening half.

Senior point guard Mitchell Kates led MIT with a game-high 20 points, albeit on 6-of-16 shooting from the field.

Senior forward Will Tashman added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Engineers, who entered the season ranked No. 1 nationally in Division III.

MIT was without senior starting center Noel Hollingsworth—a Division III preseason All-American—who missed the game due to injury.

With the 6’9” Hollingsworth out, the Crimson controlled the post, outscoring the Engineers, 38-20, in the paint.

“They pushed us around a little bit,” said MIT coach Larry Anderson, whose team surrendered 12 offensive rebounds which turned into 15 second-chance points for Harvard.

The Crimson also had the edge in the backcourt, finishing with nine turnovers to MIT’s 18.

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