STORRS, Conn.—For the middle 18 minutes of its game at Connecticut Friday night, the Harvard men's basketball team hung tough with its second consecutive major-conference opponent.
But it was the opening eight minutes and the final ten that made the difference for the Crimson, which fell, 57-49.
The Huskies scored the game’s first 11 points and started the game on a 15-2 run, during which time a clearly-flustered young Harvard squad turned it over five times and sophomore wing Wesley Saunders missed an easy dunk.
But at the 12:28 mark of the first half, freshman Siyani Chambers hit a three-pointer, and the Crimson got back in the game from there. Saunders had a layup under the basket, co-captain Christian Webster hit consecutive threes from the top of the key and the right wing, and just like that the Crimson had a 12-0 run and was within one at 15-14.
“When Chambers hit the three, I thought that settled us in a little bit,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “Then we got a few stops, and we settled in.”
But UConn’s Ryan Boatright answered right back with a three of his own, and Harvard was unable to take the lead at any point on the night despite cutting the UConn lead to one multiple times.
With 14:33 to go in the second half, Webster drove baseline and found sophomore Jonah Travis underneath for a lefty layup to make it 31-30. Boatright answered with a floater, but Sunders had a back-door, up-and-under layup to pull the Crimson within one again.
Junior co-captain Laurent Rivard had the chance to give Harvard the lead on its next possession but missed a three; the normally reliable sharpshooter finished one for six from downtown on the night as Harvard failed to pull ahead once again.
“If we could’ve taken the lead, it changes the psyche of things,” Amaker said. “We couldn’t get to that moment, and I thought that was a big turning point in the game.”
From there, UConn went on a 15-4 run to extend its lead to 48-36, and the Crimson never got within less than nine the rest of the way.
“We can’t have poor stretches of games where we aren’t efficient and certainly we were that this evening,” Amaker said. “We allowed UConn to take advantage of that and sprint away from us.”
DeAndre Daniels led all scorers with 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting for the Huskies, while Boatright had 16.
“[Daniels] was a tough matchup for us,” Amaker said. “He seems to be a very versatile player. He delivered tonight.”
Saunders paced the Crimson with 14 points while holding UConn guard Shabbazz Napier—who entered averaging 18.6 points per game—scoreless until there was just 7:39 left in the game. But the Huskies did the same to Crimson rookie point guard Siyani Chambers, who finished with more turnovers (five) than points (three).
“Chambers was one of our concerns [coming into the game],” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “Boatright did an awesome job on him.... We kept him out of the lane. He’s a great penetrator, he’s a great freshman point guard. To limit him really helped our defense.”