Sophomore Wesley Saunders was just two for nine from the field Saturday against Fordham, but finished with a game-high 17 points by going 13 for 18 from the free-throw line in a 73-64 victory at Lavietes Pavilion. The team got to the charity stripes 39 times in the game.
The Harvard men’s basketball team will not have to travel far on Tuesday when it visits Boston College in search of its second straight win.
In the crosstown rival Eagles (3-4), the Crimson (3-3) faces an opponent that looks strikingly similar to itself. Both squads have yet to post consecutive wins this season and have looked towards young players to shoulder the offensive burden.
For Harvard, freshman point guard Siyani Chambers and sophomore forward Wes Saunders—who leads the Crimson with 15.8 points per game—have seen the most playing time for the Crimson, averaging 37 and 35 minutes per game, respectively.
For the Eagles, sophomore forward Ryan Anderson leads the team with 14.2 points per game, followed closely by freshman guard Oliver Hanlan, averaging 13.9.
“[Boston College is] young in their years, but they have experience, which is something that we are lacking in our freshman or even our sophomores,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said.
This season, Harvard has been forced to adapt after losing its top four scorers, forcing players like Saunders and Chambers into larger roles than expected.
“[Saunders is] a guy that we need to do everything,” Amaker said. “We need him to handle the ball, we need him to score, and we need him to rebound. He’s our best perimeter defender.”
Despite posting a season-high six turnovers last time out against Fordham, Amaker said that he is pleased with how Chambers has controlled the ball and created opportunities under pressure.
“Right away, because of the situation, he’s been able to shine a little brighter than most would have thought,” Amaker said.
While the Crimson and the Eagles have had similar performances this season, last year’s matchup was a different story.After falling behind 14-3 to open the game, Harvard rallied to open up a 40-33 lead at the half and never looked back, putting up a decisive 67-46 victory. It was the Crimson’s fourth consecutive win over Boston College. In order to secure a fifth, Amaker says that Harvard will need to focus on limiting the Eagles from behind the arc.
“I think it’s going to be really important for us to defend the three point line,” Amaker said. “They have a lot of shooters they can put out to spread the floor, so our discipline defending threes is critical.”
After giving up a season high 85 points in a loss to Vermont last Tuesday, Amaker shook up the lineup in the victory against Fordham on Saturday. Three freshmen saw their first career starts, including forward Agunwa Okolie, who put up 11 points in 27 minutes of play. Besides playing 18 minutes against Manhattan in November, Okolie, who missed time due to illness, has played a combined three minutes during the rest of the season.
After using the same starting lineup for the first five games of the season, Saturday marked the first time Amaker deviated from his go-to lineup. Amaker has yet to announce the starters for the game against Boston College, and he commended the freshman for their composure against the Rams.
“We like what we did for last game,” Amaker said. “It was needed for our team, and I thought some kids deserved the opportunity based on how we defended in the previous game…. They weren’t deer in the headlights. They moved their feet very well defensively.”
The Crimson will confront a familiar face on Tuesday in Eagles’ forward Andrew van Nest, who joined Boston College as a graduate student to use his fourth year of NCAA eligibility after playing three seasons at Harvard.