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Crunched In Crunch Time

Brown Knows


B.U.--29-51 80.

Har.--39-33 72.

That's the line from last night, and it tells the entire story. After taking a first-half lead with solid, smart defense, Harvard watched Boston University light up the scoreboard in the last 20 minutes. Basketball is a simple game, and the Crimson lost last night for simple reasons. And not altogether new ones.

Saturday, when Harvard hosted Holy Cross, the Crusaders came back from a 23-26 halftime deficit to win by nine.

This team has just not doing the job in crunch time, not since a 77-64 win against Army over Thanks-giving break. Sure, Harvard still has a good record (4-2) and two games does not a season make, but this trend is real.

Last night, it was sparked by B.U.'s press. Terrier coach Dennis Wolff started it with about six minutes to go in the first half, not so much as a reaction to Harvard's offense, but as a tactic that B.U. often uses.

"I had thought about getting after them from the beginning of the game," Wolff said, "but I didn't think that we could do it for 40 minutes."

The press didn't work at first--over the last six minutes of the first half, Harvard increased its lead from six points to 10. But after the break, B.U.'s shooting got hotter, which forced Harvard to inbound more balls from behind the baseline, and that gave B.U. more chances to use the press.

And that also created easy baskets for the Terriers. In the first half, Harvard had four turnovers, none of which resulted in B.U. baskets. In the second, those numbers vaulted to 10 turnovers for 12 points. Most of those were layups.

Case in point: With Harvard up, 46-39 at the television time-out, Terrier forward Joey Beard got away from his defender and slammed home a dunk. Then B.U.'s guard LeVar Folk stole an errant pass from Harvard sophomore Tim Hill and layed the ball in. For those scoring at home, that's 10 seconds, two high-percentage baskets, and all the momentum on the Terrier side.

Even in the halfcourt, B.U. wasn't afraid to be aggressive. After Harvard senior Chris Grancio and sophomore Mike Beam burned the Terriers in the first half with mid-to-long-range jumpers, B.U. became much more in-your-face and physical. As a result, Harvard wilted.

"They did a good job keeping the pressure up," Hill said. "When you have pressure, that makes a team have defensive lapses."

And the molehill turned into a mountain. B.U. took a one-point lead with 12:05 to go, took the lead for good with 9:49 to go and slowly extended the advantage to as much as 11. Late in the game, Harvard got as close as five--mostly due to B.U.'s bad free-throw shooting--but a Crimson win was not going to happen.

Which isn't to say that Harvard didn't have its moments. The Terriers have a lot of talent--Beard is a highly-recruited transfer from Duke, and forward Tunji Awojobi may end up in the NBA some day. And in that first half, Grancio and center Kyle Snowden held the duo to a combined 12 points and seven rebounds.

But inconsistency kills a team, and last night Harvard was just that. The Crimson is not in the Ivy League season yet, and teams are allowed to make mistakes. Now, Harvard has to learn from them.

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