With Tuesday night’s 79-63 victory over Boston College (3-5), the Harvard men’s basketball team (4-3) made it five straight against its crosstown rival from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
After the Eagles had come out on top of 32 of the teams’ first 41 matchups, Jeremy Lin ’10 changed the dynamic of the rivalry when he led the Crimson past the Eagles back in 2009. Since then, Harvard has made defeating Boston College an annual tradition.
“Certainly it’s very meaningful for us to have the opportunity to play our area teams, and we’ve been able to get excited about that,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “It’s been very meaningful for us, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to play Boston College.”
Despite his team’s recent struggles against the Crimson, Eagles coach Steve Donahue has no plans of ending the annual matchup.
“I think it’s a game we should play,” Donahue said. “I think it’s the right thing for college basketball in the city of Boston…. I think people in this area are confused. They think it’s their father’s Harvard. It’s not. They’re an established program. They could beat a lot of basketball teams in this country, so for us to not play them because they might beat us, I would never do that.”
While much has been made of the Crimson’s winning streak against the Eagles, one Harvard newcomer was unaware of the Crimson’s recent successes against the Eagles.
“I didn’t know,” said rookie point guard Siyani Chambers, who posted a career-high 21 points. “It was just another game on the schedule.”
A FRESH FIVE
For the second straight game, Amaker decided to shake up the starting lineup.
After giving the starting nod to rookies Agunwa Okolie, Michael Hall, and Evan Cummins for the first time on Saturday, Amaker replaced the trio with co-captains Christian Webster and junior Laurent Rivard and sophomore Jonah Travis. The trio joined Chambers and sophomore Wesley Saunders, who have started every game for the Crimson this season.
“We’re thinking of different lineups based on our opponents and also feel by me, to be very honest,” said Amaker, who opened the season with a lineup of Chambers, Rivard, Saunders, and sophomores Steve Moundou-Missi and Kenyatta Smith. “We wanted to go with a veteran team [against Boston College].”
In addition to being its most experienced lineup, Tuesday’s five was also the Crimson’s smallest to open a game. Joined by four perimeter players, Travis was the Harvard’s tallest starter at 6’6”.
While the Crimson struggled defending the post in the early going—the Eagles scored 10 of their first 13 points in the paint—the decision to go small seemed to pay off.
After struggling to hold onto the ball in its past five contests, Harvard matched a season low with nine turnovers. The Crimson also had success in transition, scoring 15 fast-break points to Boston College’s four.
“They did a terrific job of attacking us when they had advantage and then making us guard them for 35 seconds,” Donahue said. “That’s the two hardest things to do in basketball is to push it early on and stop them and to have the poise and toughness and confidence at the end of the shot clock. They exploited both ends of that.”