NOTEBOOK: Amaker Opts for Small Lineup against UConn

Wes Saunders UConn
Robert F Worley

Sophomore wing Wesley Saunders attacks the basket during the Harvard men’s basketball team’s loss at UConn on Friday. Saunders finished with a team-high 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting and four assists.

STORRS, Conn.—When sophomore forward Jonah Travis stepped up to take the jump at the beginning of Friday night’s contest against UConn, he was met at center court by the Huskies center Enosch Wolf, who stands seven inches taller than the Harvard sophomore at 7’1.”

And while Friday marked the Crimson’s second straight game with an undersized starting lineup comprised entirely of players 6’6” and shorter, the UConn post presence proved more challenging than that of the Crimson’s previous opponent, Boston College.

“We needed ball handlers,” said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker about the decision to go small. “You’re not going to be able to overpower this team, so [it was important] for us to have the best ball handlers on the court. That and being on the road, having our most experienced team on the road.”

As has been the case in several of the Crimson’s games so far this season, Harvard (4-4) got off to a slow start against the Huskies (7-2), falling behind 15-2 to start the game.

But although it eventually dropped the non-conference matchup, 57-49—the Crimson’s fourth loss to the perennial powerhouse under Amaker—Harvard made it a three-point game going into halftime and came within one point of UConn four times over the course of the game.

“When you get off to a bad start, things can go south really fast,” Amaker said. “But we dug in there and put ourselves back within striking distance in this game and other games as well.”

A TALL TASK

Despite averaging just 9.8 points per game on the season before the contest against the Crimson, Huskies forward DeAndre Daniels led all scorers with a career-high 23 points—11 points higher than his previous personal high.

“We were concerned with [UConn’s] peripheral play,” Amaker said. “And as fate would have it, Daniels has an outstanding game.”

Daniels was instrumental in UConn’s initial run, dropping eight in the opening 6:44 of play as the Huskies took a commanding 15-2 lead over the Crimson.

At the end of the first half, the UConn sophomore was an impressive six for seven from the field—good for 15 points—with his only miss coming from three-point range.

Daniels—who went a perfect four for four from the foul line—was the only player on his team to shoot above 50 percent from the charity stripe.

In addition to his impact on the scoreboard, Daniels contributed four rebounds and a steal in the win over Harvard, finishing the night shooting 9 of 12 from the field.

“It was a tough matchup for us,” Amaker said. “[Daniels] seems to be a very versatile player. We were hearing…that they wanted more from him, and he certainly looked like he delivered tonight.”

While the Crimson outrebounded the Huskies, 27-20, UConn capitalized on its six offensive boards, converting nine second-chance points to Harvard’s two.

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