The Harvard men's basketball team will try to continue its modest two-game winning streak today when it squares off against Lafayette (1-2) at Lavietes Pavilion. Harvard (2-0) hopes to follow its blowout wins over Babson and Army with an impressive performance over an improved Lafayette squad.
Including last year's season-ending victories over Cornell and Columbia, the Crimson has won its last four efforts by an average margin of 29 points. The team has not won five consecutive games in almost five years.
"We've come out and played some pretty solid basketball," said junior forward Kyle Snowden, who has averaged 17 points and 15 rebounds in the two wins. "Maintaining our defensive intensity is the most important thing."
Defense is truly the name of the game for the Crimson. It has out-rebounded opponents by almost 20 per game, and in holding Babson and Army to just 60 points apiece on 30.3 percent field goal shooting, the cagers have cracked down heavily on penetration into the lane.
"We have to let teams know that we aren't going to give up any easy transition buckets," Snowden said.
Lafayette presents a major defensive challenge in its pesky backcourt, anchored by senior Craig Kowalda. The Leopards combine their perimeter game with their 6'11," 250-pound Romanian center, freshman Stefan Ciosici. He is the first true low post threat Harvard has seen this year.
"They have some good size and some good quickness on the perimeter so they're definitely going to be a challenge for us," said freshman point guard Tim Hill, who scored 13 points and dished out eight assists in Tuesday's win over Army.
Offensively, the Crimson will look to continue what has so far been a balanced attack fueled by 55.9 percent shooting from the field. At least five players reached double-figure scoring in each of the first two contests, including newcomer David Weaver. The junior guard, a transfer student, is averaging 16 points per game.
Looks can be deceiving, however. Despite the two convincing victories, the Crimson did not play exceptionally well against Army. Harvard may not be able to squeak by Lafayette if it does not improve its level of play.
"We've been happy with the result, but we know we can play a lot better," senior small forward Mike Gilmore said.
Although the Leopards were just 2-25 last season, it is a more experienced bunch that takes the court against Harvard tonight. It returns all five starters, and although Ciosici is a freshman, he has played significant minutes overseas.
One of Harvard's keys to victory not just against Lafayette but for the season may be the health of team captain Darren Rankin. Rankin, coming off season-ending back surgery, played 11 minutes in the second half of the win over Army. He scored two points and grabbed three rebounds.
Rankin says that after a tough practice the day before, his back was tight by the second half.
"I didn't feel that comfortable," he said. "But I really don't worry about that because it's a day-to-day thing. One day it will be tight and the next day it will feel fine."
Harvard is 1-2 overall against Lafayette. The two teams last played in 1986, when Lafayette posted an 80-75 victory at home.
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