This year's Harvard men's basketball team will never be mistaken for Guy Lewis' Houston teams of the early '80s. Houston relied heavily on the inside game of Akeem Olajuwon, yet consistently lost close games due to ineptitude from the foul line.
While Ron Mitchell has asserted himself as a dominating inside force in Ivy League play, success from the perimeter and the charity stripe has played an even larger role in the team's current four-game winning streak. Harvard shot an eye-popping 11-of-18 from three-point land in Tuesday's win over New Hampshire.
It was another Crimson big man, sophomore center Peter Condakes, who led the way against the Wildcats, connecting on six treys. Senior guard Ralph James set the tone for the evening early on, connecting on three three-pointers in the first half, en route to a 21-point effort that included five three-pointers.
When Harvard hasn't been hitting from downtown, it has been making the most of its opponents' mistakes. During the streak, starters Tyler Rullman, Ron Mitchell, James and Condakes have hit 82 percent (70-85) of their free throws. Against UNH, Rullman canned 7-of-8 foul shots in the final minute, while Mitchell hit nine of his 10 attempts.
While James and Condakes were lighting up the outside Tuesday night, Mitchell was quietly doing the dirty work. The junior Co-Captain led the team with 13 rebounds, and his aggressive lowpost play opened up the perimeter for his teammates. When the Wildcats were forced to spread out and stick the Crimson sharpshooters, Mitchell was the beneficiary, hitting five second-half field goals and racking up 19 points.
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Win, Baby, Just Win: UNH has become something of a media darling lately. The Wildcats are the not-so-proud owners of the nation's longest home losing streak. When hapless Delaware stopped the Wildcats in Durham last week, the skid hit 31 games.
Last year, in an effort to reverse the team's luck, the folks at the sports information department in Durham, N.H. tried printing the team's media guide backwards. Not even that prank was enough to pull the Wildcats out of the doldrums--UNH went winless at home for the second consecutive season.
This year, the folks at the sports information department are at it again. Saturday's home contest against Maine is being dubbed "Guaranteed Win Night."
How does UNH coach Jim Boylan feel about the burden his in-house promoters have placed on the Wildcats?
"I think it's a fun promotion. It has generated more ink and more attention than anything I've ever been involved with," Boylan said.
"People say, 'don't you worry about the Maine team getting psyched up because it's Guaranteed Win Night and all that?' But, hey, we've lost 31 games in a row at home and I'm not really concerned about what the other team is thinking when they come in. If they're not psyched to play, with all the attention that we've been getting, it won't make a difference." The catch to Guaranteed Win Night is that it won't make a difference whether UNH brings home the victory.
"We're guaranteeing that if you come to the game you're going to be a winner," Boylan said. "Either we're going to beat Maine, and you can celebrate us breaking the streak, or, if we lose, you're going to get all these coupons to go to Burger King and wherever else they're going to be coming from."
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Hollywood Bound?: Harvard Coach Peter Roby is becoming something of a celebrity these days. Yes, that is the Crimson mentor that you see making a brief statement during WBZ-TV's promotions for it's "24-hour news source" service.
And yes, that was the same Roby who was quoted in last week's Sports Illustrated. In the Scorecard section edited by Steve Wulf, Roby is quoted on his theory of recruiting. "If I ask a kid how he did on his boards, and he says 'twelve a game'", Roby said, "I know he's not coming to Harvard."
Could a movie deal be far behind?