NOTEBOOK: After Wild Weekend, No Men's Basketball Teams Left Undefeated
Twenty-four hours before its tipoff against the Columbia Lions (10-10, 2-4 Ivy), the Harvard men’s basketball team (13-7, 5-1) remained one of two undefeated teams atop the Ivy League. After Yale pulled off a stunning upset at Jadwin Gymnasium Saturday night, defeating previously undefeated Princeton, the Crimson entered its Sunday matchup as the sole Ancient Eight squad without a loss.
It wouldn’t last.
The Lions gave Harvard its first loss in February, 78-63, and performed well in every facet of the game. Columbia’s performance was arguably its most complete of the season. The Lions shot 51 percent from the field—including 53 percent from behind the arc—outrebounded Harvard by eight, and boasted 18 assists against 10 turnovers (the Crimson finished with six assists against 13 turnovers).
“Certainly an outstanding performance by Columbia,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “It was obvious how well they played this afternoon.”
No opponent in Ivy League play had eclipsed the 50 percent mark against Harvard from beyond the three-point line before Columbia’s outburst on Sunday. The Lions scored more than any other Ivy League opponent had against the Crimson, boasted the largest rebounding margin (+8) of Harvard’s Ancient Eight opponents, and shot the highest percentage (50.9 percent) of any Crimson conference opponent this season.
FRANK(oski) AND SIMPLE
A large portion of the Lions’ damage was done by junior guard Steve Frankoski, who led the team with 27 points Sunday. Frankoski nailed five of the seven three-pointers he took, with many coming in transition as point guard Brian Barbour found him time after time as the trailer.
“I thought Frankoski was an amazing offensive weapon that they had today,” Amaker said. “They shot the ball well, got him out of the blocks early and kept us on our heels throughout the game. We had no answer for him and I thought they played off of him really well.”
A 6’2” guard, Frankoski shoots nearly 46 percent from three-point territory. He stole the ball from Harvard co-captain Christian Webster on the first play of the game and a minute later started off the Columbia scoring with a three-pointer from the wing. Thirty-eight minutes later, he finished the night with two free throws from the line.
In the first half, Frankoski was the difference. Although the Crimson trailed by one or two for most of the half, the New Jersey native took over with five minutes remaining in the period. Nailing two free throws, Frankowski proceeded a minute later to nail back-to-back three-point jumpers from the corner. That brought the lead from one to seven and gave Frankoski 20 points at the break.
SHINING IN A LOSING EFFORT
Despite the loss, Harvard had a pair of stars submit noteable performances against the Lions. Sophomore Wesley Saunders had his most effective game of the season, missing only three total shots on the night. Saunders ended the day with 27 points on only 11 shots, earning himself 10 trips to the foul line and knocking down long jumper after long jumper in the first half to keep the Crimson in the game.
Saunders was the lone Crimson player to shoot over 50 percent as the rest of the team staggered to poor shooting nights. Freshman point guard Siyani Chambers made eight of 10 from the line but missed four of six shots and had five turnovers against only three assists. Webster missed five of his seven shots, including four of five treys, and sharpshooter junior Laurent Rivard connected on only two of his six attempts from behind the arc.
In total, the team hit only four of its thirteen shots from three for a 31 percent clip, 10 percent below its season average.
On the defensive end, sophomore forward Steve Moundou-Missi gave Harvard valuable bench minutes. With a small rotation in place (Harvard’s other bench players combined for 13 minutes, one point, and no rebounds or assists), Moundou-Missi is the Crimson’s key reserve. On Sunday, he put up six points, seven rebounds, and six blocks in just 27 points of action.
“I thought Steve gave us great energy and effort,” Amaker said. “He made up for mistakes on dribble penetration. He protected the rim as much as he could. I thought he did as much as he possible could do. Looking at his stat line, we can’t ask for much more from Steve.”
—Staff writer David P. Freed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dpfreed.