The season opener for the Harvard men’s basketball team was marked by inconsistency and lapses in attention.
Nevertheless, Harvard’s raw talent proved to be its savior, as it edged MIT 73-64 on Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion. Important contributions from sophomore forwards Seth Towns and Chris Lewis were key to injecting energy into an overall sluggish performance by the Crimson (1-0).
Lewis earned his first career double-double, bringing down 10 boards to go alongside 13 points. Additionally, the frontcourt anchor for Harvard coach Tommy Amaker tallied three rejections and two steals.
The Engineers (0-1) brought the game within a two-point margin at 51-49, but a late three-pointer by sophomore guard Bryce Aiken proved to be decisive in cementing a Harvard victory. MIT was led by junior guard Bradley Jomard, who delivered 17 points while playing in all 40 minutes of game action.
Last season, then-senior Zena Edosomwan was the headman on defense for the Crimson. His domineering presence was clearly missed by Amaker’s squad in Friday night’s game.
For an Engineers roster that featured no players weighing in above 215 pounds, the guests managed to secure nine offensive rebounds in the contest. Additionally, Harvard let up numerous easy drives to the basket, allowing 28 points in the paint for MIT.
“I thought they beat us off the bounce, which caused a lot of help and recover situations,” Amaker said. “They’re hard to guard, they’re small. There is not a lot of size so matching up with smaller teams like that can be hard to guard.”
Managing fouls will also be an overarching point of emphasis for the Crimson moving forward. Lewis, Aiken, and junior guard Corey Johnson each tallied four personals, and Harvard logged double-digit team foul marks in both halves of play. Much of the latter portions of the game became extremely choppy as both teams were deep inside the bonus. MIT went to the line 21 times in the game, shooting 61.9 percent.
“We were antsy coming out and gambled too much,” Towns said. “Sticking to our defensive principles is something that would help us. A lot of it was just adrenaline, especially in the beginning, and so I think that will clear up as the season moves on.”
ATTACKING THE INTERIOR
Last season, Towns was mostly a perimeter threat for the Crimson. In Friday’s opener, Towns demonstrated his strengths in directly attacking the rim and finishing aggressively. Of his game-high 20 points, the sophomore only took one attempt from three-point range, while getting to the line for 12 free throw attempts.
Towns also grabbed three offensive rebounds, one of which was a skillful tip-in to extend the Crimson lead to nine late in the first half.
“When Coach recruited me, he told me I was a versatile player and he could stick me offensively and defensively, anywhere the team had a gap.” Towns said. “Offensively we have a philosophy where we move the ball and play inside and out.”