The Harvard men’s basketball team (9-3) righted the ship Monday with a 46-point thrashing of Saint Rose—the team’s largest-ever victory under coach Tommy Amaker—but faces a bigger challenge in Hanover, NH as it starts conference play Saturday against Dartmouth (7:00 p.m., Ivy League Digital Network). Below, The Back Page takes a look at the three main things to keep your eye on as Harvard starts the “14-game tournament”.
The No. 3 Harvard men’s hockey team will face No. 19 Yale at Madison Square Garden next Saturday in the second edition of the Rivalry On Ice. On Dec. 26, a brief ECAC Hockey press release promoting the match-up stated the following:
“This year’s game also features a unique intermission skating performance with Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes (Yale alum) and her Olympian sister Emily Hughes (Harvard alum).”
In the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, Sarah Hughes stunned the skating world by capturing gold in the ladies’ singles event. The next year, Sarah declined her early admittance to Harvard and enrolled at Yale. In 2006, Sarah’s younger sister took the Olympic stage. Emily Hughes ’11 placed seventh in Torino before her freshman year in Cambridge.
Surprised by the press release, I used Twitter to reach out to the Hughes sisters, who kindly granted a video chat interview from their New York home. While I quickly learned that Sarah and Emily would not, in fact, be lacing up between periods on Jan. 10, they are planning to take the ice for the ceremonial first face-off alongside former New York Governor George Pataki (Yale ’67) and New York Rangers greats Mike Richter (Yale ’08) and Mark Messier (Rivalry On Ice brand ambassador and uncle of Harvard sophomore forward Luke Esposito).
In the following conversation, the Hughes sisters talk about their connection to college hockey, their previous performances at the Garden, and the Ivy League’s rich tradition of Olympic figure skating.
The Harvard men’s ice hockey team continues its rise.
On Monday, the Crimson (10-1-2, 6-1-2 ECAC) rose from fourth to third in the national rankings. In the midst of the longest winning streak in college hockey, the team sits behind only No. 1/1 University of North Dakota and No. 2/2 Boston University in both the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls.
The Crimson received more first-place votes (13 out of 34) than any other team in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll and tops the PairWise, RPI, and KRACH rankings.
After dropping consecutive games to Big Six opponents, the Harvard men’s basketball team (8-3) righted the ship with a win over Grand Canyon to close out its three-game road swing. The Crimson return to Massachusetts looking to extend its win streak when it takes on Saint Rose (5-8) Monday at Lavietes Pavilion (7:00 EST, Ivy League Digital Network). Below, The Back Page takes a look at the three main things to keep your eye on as Harvard aims to kick off 2015 with a victory.
Retaking the Glass: In losses to both Arizona State and Virginia, Harvard failed to establish itself early inside, unusual for a Tommy Amaker offense. Senior center Kenyatta Smith, the most traditional back-to-the-basket player on the roster, played 22 combined minutes in both games without a field goal. Not coincidentally, the Crimson’s bounce-back performance against Grand Canyon hinged on a 38-24 advantage on the boards. Playing a team that started four guards, Harvard went to the paint—via dribble or pass—early and often. A lack of a strong post presence has been a theme throughout the Crimson’s three losses, so look for Amaker to establish Smith and co-captain Steve Moundou-Missi inside early Monday night.
Finding His Range: The most positive development for the Crimson against Grand Canyon was the play of junior co-captain Siyani Chambers. The team’s starting point guard had made just 10 of his previous 39 shots heading into the contest, but sunk five of 10 and led the team in scoring for the first time this season with 16 points. However, Chambers is still shooting a career-low 33 percent from the field while posting career lows in rebounds, points, and free throw attempts a game. Saint Rose—a team who has never before played a Division I opponent in regular season play—is an ideal game for Chambers to get back on track.
Home Cooking: Monday’s game is a brief intermission for the Crimson before Harvard takes the road again for a three-game swing against Dartmouth, Boston College, and Bryant. Overall, the Crimson has not lost at home in 2014-2015 and the team carries a nine-game home win streak into the contest. Since the 2010-2011 season, Harvard has had two home winning streaks of 20 games or longer and boasts a 55-3 record overall within the friendly confines of Lavietes Pavilion. For perspective, that home field advantage is third in the country over that time frame, and within shouting distance of first (Duke, 70-3).
After consecutive losses, the Harvard men’s basketball team (7-3) continues its three-game road trip looking for just its second win in five road games against Grand Canyon (8:00 p.m., American Sports Network). Below, The Back Page takes a look at the three main things to keep your eye on as Harvard closes out its 2014 schedule.
Failing to Close: After taking a 49-point loss a week earlier, the Crimson’s 10-point loss to Arizona State Sunday represented an improvement, but the performance was less than stellar. After putting up 23 combined points in the first half, Harvard’s starting backcourt of co-captain Siyani Chambers and senior wing Wesley Saunders had just two points on nine shots in the second half. Chambers continued his season-long struggles from the field, making just three of eight shots to bring his field goal percentage to 31 percent on the year. Harvard, which trailed by just four points at halftime, had just 18 points in the second half against arguably the PAC-12s worst team. Grand Canyon is a couple steps below Arizona State, but after failing to score 30 points in each of its last four halves, Harvard will want to jump early on the soft Antelope defense.
A Notable Trade-Off: Chambers, however, is just one-half of a struggling pair of co-captains for the Crimson. Co-captain Steve Moundou-Missi, arguably the team’s most consistent performer last season behind Saunders, has seen his offense shrink this year as he has taken a larger defensive role. The senior forward is averaging career highs in rebounds (6.5 a game) and blocks (2.1 a contests) but is shooting just over 40 percent from the field on nearly eight shot attempts a game after making 52 percent or more of his shots his first three years. Neither Moundou-Missi nor Chambers has provided effective spacing with what were advertised as improved jump shots, allowing opponents to clog the lane to shut down Saunders—whose game is based on his ability to get into the lane. The two co-captains are the clear players to watch as the Crimson move through the last half of its nonconference schedule.
Rounding Back Into Form: Harvard’s two worst offensive outputs of the season have coincided not only with the program’s first back-to-back losses since March of 2013. A possible explanation for the team’s struggles is the lack of practice time. Harvard had 13 days off before playing UVA during finals period and another seven days off before Arizona State, during which time many players went home for holiday celebrations. Various players joined the team directly in Phoenix instead of traveling with the rest of the squad, and the lack of practice is a possible cause for why a team that scored in the 70s five times in its first eight games barely cracked a combined 70 in its last two outings. The team has no more than six days off between each game in January, and with increased practice time may come a return to offensive form.