Two major Catamount runs—a 30-8 string over 12-plus minutes in the first half and a 12-2 run over five crucial minutes in the second—highlighted glaring weaknesses in Harvard’s play, while the Crimson’s 24-3 tear over the course of seven minutes at the beginning of the second frame showed the team’s lofty potential.
And a seven-point Harvard run starting with three minutes to play was stemmed with the team just one point from re-tying the game.
A game-opening 5-2 flourish by the Crimson was quickly buried under a pile of easy offensive boards and putbacks for Vermont. The Catamounts capitalized on second and third chances, as both their post players and their guards had an easy time around the basket.
Meanwhile, Mike Trimboli and Nick Vier dropped in two three-pointers each. By the time Harvard came up for air with six minutes left in the half, it was facing a 19-point deficit.
“I thought we needed a change,” coach Tommy Amaker said. “We were getting beaten off the dribble. We were getting stretched out.”
That change was a 1-3-1 zone, combined with a greater emphasis on pushing the tempo, catalyzed by sophomore guard Jeremy Lin. A three-pointer by Lin just over a minute into the second half sparked the Crimson’s run, during which he scored eight of his team-high 18 points and recorded four rebounds, two steals, and an assist.
His coast-to-coast layup at the 17:22 mark of the second half brought the Harvard within 10 at 46-36 and brought the crowd back into the game.
Up 53-49 with 12 minutes left, a missed layup and a series of unproductive possessions took the wind out of the Crimson’s sails. Two Vermont layups and a dunk later, Harvard was down again, twice ensnared in an unexpected full-court press. Trimboli and Timothry McCrory each contributed six points to the 12-2 run from which Harvard never recovered.
If one facet of the game doomed the Crimson yesterday, it was rebounding—a recurring weakness for this year’s squad. After being out-rebounded by Vermont, 46-28, Harvard has now been out-rebounded in all but one of its eight losses.
The Catamounts’ nine offensive rebounds during their 30-8 run in the first half resulted in nine points and allowed Vermont to slow the tempo of the game.
“It comes down to how bad our guys want it,” sophomore guard Jeremy Lin said, adding that all that matters is “how much heart we have.”
In the first half, the Crimson was outscored, 11-4, on second-chance baskets, was outshot, 34-24, and allowed 13 offensive rebounds.
During its 24-3 run in the second half, Harvard held the rebounding edge, 8-5.
ON THE FITZ
Although it was not his highest-scoring performance or his longest outing, yesterday’s game was freshman Kyle Fitzgerald’s most important appearance in a Harvard uniform. With Vermont threatening to leave the Crimson in the dust late in the first half, Fitzgerald’s instilled some life in Harvard squad that had been listless since the second minute of play.
A steal by Fitzgerald sparked a fast break and led to two free throws from junior point guard Drew Housman, cutting the Vermont lead to 13 from a high of 19. Two minutes later, a short jumper off a strong right-handed drive from the top of the key brought the Crimson within 12. Fitzgerald’s energetic play rubbed off on his teammates, who soon turned a 15-point halftime deficit into a four-point lead.
—Staff writer Jonathan B. Steinman can be reached at email@example.com.