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In basketball, if you can't put the ball through the hoop, you lose. Even small children and certain species of dog generally have a firm grasp on this self-evident truth.
This weekend, though, the Lehigh men's basketball team had to relearn that fundamental truth the hard way.
On Saturday evening, Harvard (1-1) soundly defeated Lehigh (0-3), 73-52, as the Mountain Hawks shot an abysmal 30 percent from the floor before a modest crowd at Lavietes Pavilion.
The win was Harvard's first of the season and the 21-point margin of victory set a new standard for the Crimson in its 17-year rivalry with Lehigh.
Captain Dan Clemente poured in 23 points to lead all scorers and to pace the Crimson offensively for the second straight game. The 6'6 forward also chipped in with eight rebounds and four steals.
Clemente is currently 18th on the all-time scoring list with 1,034 points and needs only 13 three-pointers to become Harvard's all-time leading marksman from beyond the arc.
In terms of shooting percentage, the Crimson fared much better than its Patriot League opponent. Harvard shot a robust 57 percent from the floor in the second half and finished the game with a solid field goal conversion rate of 48 percent.
Despite the healthy offensive numbers though, Harvard's victory on Saturday should be credited largely to its defensive performance in the second half.
After 20 minutes of sporadic defense, Harvard went into halftime trailing Lehigh, 35-34. In the second half, the Crimson switched defensive strategy from man to zone coverage as well as throwing in more full-court presses. The change paid off and Harvard held Lehigh to four points for the first 11 minutes of the second half.
"The change in the game's momentum was generated by our defense," said Harvard Coach Frank Sullivan. "Our press and our zone propelled us to the win."
The Crimson defensive effort was spearheaded by the record-breaking performance of sophomore guard Patrick Harvey. Harvey set the single-game record with eight steals, breaking the previous mark of seven held by Mike Scott '98.
"I'm not really thought of as a defensive specialist, but it felt good to contribute in other ways out there," Harvey said.
As a team, Harvard had 18 steals and forced 26 Lehigh turnovers. The stingy field goal defense, which held Lehigh to 19 percent shooting in the second half, improved the Crimson's record to 45-3 over the last five seasons when holding an opponent to below 40 percent shooting from the field.
The Crimson effectively put the game away in those first few minutes of the second half when Harvard went on a 19-0 run, sparked both by hustle on defense as well as accurate shooting.
Sophomore point guard Elliott Prasse-Freeman put the Crimson up for good with a free throw that made it 39-38 with 16:12 remaining to play in the game. Prasse-Freeman, who finished with 12 points and six assists, then followed his free throw with a lay-up and a three-pointer to begin Harvard's avalanche of unanswered points in the second half.
Also in the second half, the Crimson received a surprising contribution from sophomore Brian Sigafoos. The tallest person on the team, the 6'11 center came off the bench and drained eight points while accounting for Harvard's two blocks on the evening.
"It was very impressive and positive to see Brian play so well," Sullivan said.
As a testament to the Crimson's offensive balance and contributions from the bench, nine of Harvard's 11 players scored, and ten of 11 saw playing time in the game.
For the Hawks, sophomore guard Matt Logie carried the bulk of the scoring load. The Mercer Island, Wash. native, who played with Prasse-Freeman in high school, netted 15 points but only accounted for one assist Saturday.
In other action on Saturday, the Holy Cross Crusaders, the team which beat Harvard in the Crimson's season opener, defeated a strong UMass team.
"There were a couple of positives for us today," Sullivan said. "First, was realizing that we got beat by a pretty good team in Holy Cross on opening night. Second was getting our first win under our belts."
Harvard will now travel into Boston to face cross-town rival Northeastern tomorrow night. A week later, the Crimson will take on another regional foe--Boston University--in the friendly confines of Lavietes Pavilion.
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