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BOSTON, Mass.—Heading into Friday night’s game against Northeastern, the Harvard men’s basketball team didn’t even expect Husky point guard Jose Juan Barea to play, much less spend time coming up with a plan to stop him.
The Crimson knew prior to tip-off that to be successful, it was going to have to contain explosive guard Marcus Barnes, who came into the game second in the America East in scoring with 19.2 points per game and third in three pointers made at 2.88 per game, in addition to being on pace to score 597 points this season, which would be the eighth-most in Northeastern history.
But the Crimson overlooked star guard Barea, who had missed the past four games due to a knee injury and was not expected to play.
“We went out for the starting lineups [and] our guys were like, ‘What? Who?’” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “We watched some film on him, but we didn’t anticipate that he would play.”
As he always does, Barea—who averages 16.4 points and 6.6 assists per game—played a key role in the matchup, scoring 14 points and picking up eight assists.
With the exception of its game against Division III Suffolk, Northeastern averaged just 57.7 ppg and went 1-2 in Barea’s absence. Before Barea was sidelined, the Huskies had averaged 90.2 ppg.
“He’s practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and he’s practiced well,” Northeastern coach Ron Everhart said. “He really wanted to play.”
Entering the contest, the Huskies averaged an America East-best 75.8 ppg overall.
“I’m happy to be here,” Barea said. “I was excited to play in the game. It was good to come back and help out my teammates.”
To defend Barea, Sullivan chose the ever foul-prone sophomore guard Michael Beal, who fouled out again Friday night with 46 seconds to play, marking the fifth time this season Beal has had to leave a game early.
Harvard had its worst three-point offensive performance of the season Friday night in a game in which the offense suffered in general. The Crimson was 2-for-19 from the behind the arc, shot 39.3 percent from the floor and barely made half of its free throws, netting just eight of 15.
Junior guard Kevin Rogus—who is the team’s leading scorer with 15.8 ppg and has scored over half of the team’s treys—had an especially poor night, going 4-of-17 from the field and 1-of-9 from behind the arc while scoring all 10 of his points in the first half.
“I think our guys were pressed a lot tonight,” Sullivan said. “[Rogus] shot 1-for-9 but he’s not a 1-for-9 player.”
Barnes severely limited Rogus’ open looks. With Barea’s return, Barnes was able to focus much more on his defensive efforts while not having to worry about shouldering the burden of bringing the ball up and directing the offense.
“[Rogus is] a lefty, and left-handed players usually have weird shots,” Barns said. “In the second half, I just had to come out and basically deny him the ball.”
“[Rogus] is a very good player when he gets [the ball],” Everhart added. “So we just kept him from getting it.”
Friday night’s game was the fourth straight in which Harvard failed to shoot above 40 percent from the field, a stretch during which it has averaged 50.5 ppg.
Entering the game, both teams had recently fared poorly against the other’s conference. Northeastern had lost five straight games to Ivy opponents and the Crimson has now dropped five in a row to those from the America East.
Harvard has also earned the dubious distinction as the team to have played the most games in Division I basketball and still not won. The Crimson is one of just eight winless Division I teams.
—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.
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