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Much has been said about Harvard basketball this year. Disappointing performances have resulted in confused attacks on the coach and the team. Three out of the four teams Harvard has faced don't even belong on the same floor, and at times, the team has shown why.
Jim Fitzsimmons has been passing more, giving up shots and in general playing a better brand of basketball. Ken Wolfe is playing tight defense and trustrating opposing backcourts. Tony Jenkins is off to a fabulous start, shooting and rebounding strongly. Hal Smith has improved tremendously and is much more aggressive. Gene Wilkinson is still erratic but has shown moments of brilliance. Floyd Lewis has worked hard to regain his condition and confidence, and in the B.U. game looked like the Floyd Lewis I read about. In the same game, James Brown did what everyone knows he is capable of doing.
But the team hasn't solved its problems. While Princeton beats Florida State. Harvard loses to UMass. The explanation must begin with the aboard number of turnovers. Harvard had only thirteen against UMass, but this was due mainly to the slow tempo of the second half, not to disciplined Harvard play. In the more wide open first half. Harvard had 12 of the 13. In previous games, the team has averaged over 30 per game.
During the first half of the UMass game. Harvard established a strong running game. After playing even with UMass for six or seven minutes. Harvard opened up a 12-point lead. UMass was pressing ineffectively, and Jenkins was all over the court, pouring in points, rebounding and hustling after loose balls. One has to wonder whether Harvard improved its passing or UMass had a poor press. (B.U.'s press rendered Harvard nearly totally ineffective.)
Then, out of the blue, backcourt substitutions were made. Why anyone would see fit to break up a combination which was so efficiently outplaying UMass is beyond me. This was a crucial mistake. UMass went into a zone. Harvard stopped fast breaking, and also stopped scoring. The best way to break a zone is to beat it down the floor. By giving UMass time to set its zone up. Harvard lost its poise and its edge for good.
Harvard attempted only one last break in the second half, which was characterized by poor percentage shots and undisciplined play. UMass had numerous uncontested layups. It's strange that at one minute this team looks like the national contender it can be, and at others like last year's team. It reminds me of the Team Canada series which found super players combining in a team effort far below their potential.
The team's ailments--turnovers, undisciplined defense, inability to break a press--point to one thing: an inadequately drilled team. Against nationally ranked teams. Harvard would be beaten badly. Harvard has outscored its opponents most efficiently when playing a fast, but controlled, running game. An offense reminiscent of the old Celtics or present-day Knicks would be ideal for this team.
There is too much talent here to be wasted. Coach Harrison has taken many knocks, some less deserved than others. But this can still be the year for this team. With guards as quick, sensible and surehanded as Wolfe. Mike Griffin, remember the scrimmage?!!) as explosive as Fitzsimmons, and with four pro hopefuls in the front court. Coach Harrison, by disciplining his offense and having the right players on the court at the right time, could bring an Ivy title, and maybe more. In Harvard Paul Baccart '74
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